CAPE CANAVERAL Air Station, Fla., May 10, 2000 – A Lockheed Martin Atlas III rocket is poised on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL, to make space history on May 15. The inaugural launch of the newest Atlas will carry EUTELSAT’s W4 communication satellite to orbit powered by the Russian-designed and built RD-180 engine, the first time ever that a Russian engine has been used on an American rocket.

“The international partnerships represented by this launch effort are truly symbolic of today’s global marketplace and of the future of commercial space endeavors,” said Dr. Mark J. Albrecht, president of International Launch Services (ILS), the launch services provider. “ILS is proud to be a part of this historic event and pleased that once again EUTELSAT has demonstrated its confidence in Atlas by flying a new configuration.”

EUTELSAT was the first commercial customer to sign with Atlas in the 1980s at the very beginning of the Atlas commercial space program. EUTELSAT also successfully flew the first Atlas II, which was the first growth version of the venerable Atlas/Centaur combination that had been launching intermediate-class payloads since the early 1960s.

For Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, the flight of AC-201 is the next step in the company’s planned evolution of expendable launch vehicles to address the world’s future launch needs and is a stepping stone to the Atlas V family of vehicles. It is the culmination of a rigorous development and testing program to qualify the new RD-180 engine for the Atlas III and V boosters, which began in 1995 when the RD-180 was selected from three candidate engines.

“It has been a long road leading to the first flight of Atlas III and the first use of the RD-180,” said G. Thomas Marsh, president of Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Astronautics Operations. “The tremendous commitment of the technical teams and the strong partnerships that have developed on both sides of the world have made this joint effort extremely successful.”

The new RD-180 is marketed and sold by RD AMROSS, LLC, a joint venture formed by Pratt & Whitney, an operating unit of United Technologies Corporation based in West Palm Beach, FL, and NPO Energomash, Khimky, Russia. The engine used on AC-201 (designated 2T) has been built by NPO Energomash. Pratt & Whitney has been a supplier of the Centaur upper stage RL10 engines since the flight of Atlas Centaur AC-2 in November 1963. With the RD-180, this will mark the first use ever of a Russian propulsion system on a U.S. designed launch vehicle and represents a major breakthrough on several levels. Lockheed Martin sees this international partnership with RD AMROSS and NPO Energomash as the way to ensure very efficient and reliable access to space. It brings international technical excellence together on a truly global scale.

The Atlas III launch vehicles provide a major increase in performance capability through the use of the RD-180 engine. The RD-180 burns liquid oxygen and RP-1 propellant and can be throttled up or down throughout the boost phase of flight, replacing the stage-and-a-half booster and four solid rocket boosters used by the Atlas IIAS. The increased performance that is gained through use of the superior RD-180 engine in the Atlas IIIA booster allows for the two Centaur upper stage engines to be replaced with a single engine Centaur. This streamlined propulsion approach is designed to increase reliability and reduce staging events and operational complexities.

The Atlas III stands taller than the Atlas IIAS because of a ten-foot stretch to the liquid oxygen tank and interstage adapter. The rocket has a redesigned aft end to accommodate the two-bell RD-180 engine in contrast to the existing three-bell booster and sustainer engine of the Atlas II family. AC-201 total thrust developed at sea level is 617,400 lb, which is 74 percent of the power level available on Atlas III for liftoff. Overall Atlas III thrust capability is 860,200 lb, enough to lift a satellite weighing 4,500 kg (9,920 lb).

International Launch Services is a joint venture stock company established in 1995 to market launch services on Atlas and the Russian-built Proton to the global space communications industry. ILS is owned by Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services and the Lockheed Khrunichev Energia International joint venture with Russian companies Khrunichev and RSC Energia. ILS is headquartered in Reston, VA, with additional offices in Denver, CO, and Moscow, Russian Federation. ILS manages all tasks associated with providing launch services including technical, management and marketing expertise.

Astronautics Operations is one of the operating units of Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, headquartered in Denver, CO. Astronautics Operations designs, develops, tests and manufactures a variety of advanced technology systems for space and defense. Chief products include interplanetary spacecraft and other space systems, space launch systems and ground systems.

Headquartered in Bethesda, MD, Lockheed Martin is a global enterprise principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture and integration of advanced-technology systems, products and services. The Corporation’s core businesses are systems integration, space, aeronautics, and technology services. Employing more than 140,000 people worldwide, Lockheed Martin had 1999 sales surpassing $25 billion.

Contact Us!

For the latest news and information, or if you have a question, please email ILS at