SAN DIEGO, Dec. 10, 1999 – A Lockheed Martin Atlas IIAS rocket is on the launch pad, and Lockheed Martin, ILS and the U.S. Air Force launch team is in final preparation to launch a remote sensing satellite for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Terra will be launched on December 16 from SLC-3E at Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA, USA. The launch window opens at 10:33 a.m. PST and extends 25 minutes to 10:58 a.m. The launch will be broadcast live on NASA TV, which is carried on GE-2, Transponder 9C.
The Atlas IIAS used for this mission, designated AC-141, marks the first Atlas Centaur launched from Vandenberg AFB. The launch vehicle consists of the Atlas booster, the Centaur upper stage and four strap-on solid rocket boosters. After the Atlas booster phase of flight, the Centaur upper stage will use a single engine burn to place Terra into a near-polar low earth orbit (LEO) with an apogee of approximately 696 kilometers (376 nautical miles) at spacecraft separation. The spacecraft will pass the equator daily at about 10:30 a.m. PST on each 100-minute revolution.
Terra was built by Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space (LMMS) of Sunnyvale, CA, USA, at its Valley Forge, PA facility, for its customer, NASA. This will be the sixth NASA satellite to be launched under the auspices of ILS. Prior ILS/NASA launches include CRRES, three GOES satellites and SOHO. Terra is a major component of NASA's Earth Science Enterprise and is first in a series of Earth Observing System (EOS) satellites.
Atlas and the Centaur upper stages are built by Lockheed Martin Astronautics at facilities in Denver, CO, USA; San Diego, CA, USA; and Harlingen, TX, USA. Major suppliers to the Atlas program include Rocketdyne, a division of Boeing North American, located in Canoga Park, CA, USA, Atlas MA-5A engine; Pratt & Whitney, located in West Palm Beach, FL, USA, Centaur upper stage RL-10 engines; Honeywell Space Systems of Clearwater, FL, USA, inertial navigation unit; Thiokol Propulsion, Brigham City, UT, USA, Castor IVA solid rocket boosters; and Marconi Integrated Systems, San Diego, CA, USA, avionics systems.
Launch operations are provided by Lockheed Martin Astronautics at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Complex 3 East. Mission management is provided by International Launch Services (ILS), San Diego, CA, USA, formed in 1995 to jointly market Atlas and the Russian-built Proton launch services to the international and domestic satellite industry.