Press Release

NASA Awards ILS and Atlas V Mission to Pluto in 2006

By SpaceRef Editor
July 25, 2003
Filed under , ,

NASA has chosen the
Lockheed Martin Atlas V rocket, offered by International
Launch Services (ILS), to launch the Pluto New Horizons mission in
January 2006.

The mission as proposed is a scientific reconnaissance of Pluto
and its moon, Charon.

The selected vehicle is the Atlas V 551 configuration, with a
5-meter fairing and multiple solid rocket motors. This is the most
powerful version of the Atlas rocket family, with a lift capability
ranging up to 19,100 pounds to geosynchronous orbit. There have been
three Atlas V missions since the rocket debuted last August, with the
most recent being the Rainbow 1 launch last week, on an Atlas V 521
vehicle.

The space agency awarded the mission to ILS under the terms of the
NASA Launch Services contract signed in 2000. This agreement was
designed to be the primary way for NASA to procure launch services on
the highly reliable Atlas rocket through 2010. Atlas vehicles have
achieved the phenomenal record of 100 percent success in 66
consecutive flights. NASA last year selected an Atlas vehicle to
launch the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in August 2005.

“We are thrilled that NASA chose the Atlas V vehicle to launch the
Pluto New Horizons mission,” said ILS President Mark Albrecht. “Such
high-value scientific missions require the time-critical and reliable
access to space that Atlas has proven it can deliver.”

Albrecht noted that the Atlas V is the only American
medium-to-heavy-lift vehicle serving both the government and
commercial markets. “The award of the Pluto New Horizons mission
further solidifies the Atlas V business base with a mix of government
and commercial missions, demonstrating the continued confidence in
Atlas V by both communities,” Albrecht said.

Since 1959, Atlas vehicles have flown 124 missions for NASA,
including the majority of all U.S. interplanetary spacecraft. Last
year, the Atlas IIA vehicle successfully lofted two Tracking and Data
Relay Satellites (TDRS) for NASA.

The launch services contract was awarded to Lockheed Martin
Commercial Launch Services, the contracting affiliate of International
Launch Services. ILS is a joint venture formed in 1995 to market the
Lockheed Martin Atlas launch vehicle and the Proton vehicle built by
Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center of Russia.

The Atlas rockets and Centaur upper stages are built by Lockheed
Martin Space Systems Company at facilities in Denver, Colo.;
Harlingen, Texas; and San Diego, Calif. Atlas launch operations are
conducted at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and Vandenberg
Air force Base, Calif.

SpaceRef staff editor.