Press Release

Atlas III Launch Successful in 1st ILS Mission of 2002

By SpaceRef Editor
February 21, 2002
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The second flight of the Atlas III rocket lifted off at 7:43
a.m. EST today and successfully delivered its EchoStar satellite
payload into orbit, kicking off a busy year for International Launch
Services (ILS).

The rocket carried the EchoStar VII direct-broadcast satellite to
geosynchronous transfer orbit, marking the 59th consecutive successful
flight for the Atlas family. The Atlas III is part of the next
generation of launch vehicles being offered by ILS, based in McLean,

This Atlas IIIB vehicle, designated AC-204, is also the sixth
variant in the Atlas line. All Atlas variants have had successful
inaugural flights, and those missions all have carried commercial

Both the Atlas vehicle and the A2100 satellite were built by
Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. – the rocket by Astronautics
Operations of Denver, Colo., and the spacecraft by Commercial Space
Systems of Newtown, Pa.

ILS is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp. and
two Russian companies, Khrunichev State Research and Production Space
Center and RSC Energia. ILS markets and manages the missions for the
Atlas and the Russian Proton launch vehicles.

“We have demonstrated what we have been saying all along – Atlas
is the most reliable vehicle,” said ILS President Mark Albrecht. “Each
Atlas variant is evolved from our heritage systems, with strategic
improvements to boost performance. Having flown two Atlas III vehicles
successfully, we are excited about the debut of Atlas V in a few
months. The 100 percent reliability of the Atlas line provides ILS
with a strong competitive edge.”

The Atlas III is a planned progression from the
100-percent-successful Atlas II series. It also introduced
technologies that will be used on the Atlas V, which Lockheed Martin
developed for both commercial missions and the U.S. Air Force’s
Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program.

The Atlas III builds upon the pressure-stabilized booster design
of the Atlas II, but uses the Russian RD-180 main engine with variable
thrust control. The Atlas V also uses the RD-180, with a newly
developed structurally stabilized Common Core Booster(TM). Up to five
solid rocket boosters can be strapped on for additional lift

All Atlas vehicles use a Centaur upper stage, with one or two
Pratt & Whitney RL-10 engines. The Atlas IIIB was the debut of the
stretched Centaur stage – 5.5 feet longer – which also will be used on
Atlas V.

Today’s mission culminates the first of three campaigns
concurrently under way at Cape Canaveral. As AC-204 left Pad 36B, an
Atlas IIA rocket was standing on the adjacent Pad A.

In about two weeks it is scheduled to launch a Tracking and Data
Relay Satellite for NASA. Meanwhile, at Pad 41, an Atlas V vehicle is
awaiting its inaugural launch this spring carrying Eutelsat’s HOT
BIRD(TM) 6 satellite.

ILS’s other vehicle, the Russian Proton, also has several missions
scheduled. The first two satellites slated for launch are Intelsat’s
903 and DIRECTV-5.

ILS offers the broadest range of launch services in the world
along with products with the highest reliability in the industry. ILS’
Atlas rockets and their Centaur upper stages are built by Lockheed
Martin Space Systems Company-Astronautics Operations at facilities in
Denver; Harlingen, Texas; and San Diego, Calif.

The three-stage Proton and the Breeze M upper stage are assembled
by Khrunichev at its plant near Moscow. The alternative Block DM upper
stage is built by Energia, also near Moscow. For more information,

SpaceRef staff editor.