Lockheed Martin's Atlas V Team Successfully Performs Second Practice Countdown to Prepare for First Launch
CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, FL, May 20th, 2002 -- Lockheed Martin's next-generation Atlas V vehicle passed another significant test on the launch pad last week on the way to its debut launch this summer. The Atlas team successfully completed the second "wet dress rehearsal (WDR)," which is a practice countdown for actual launch. WDR number one was conducted successfully during the week of March 11. "Including lessons learned from our first WDR, the Atlas team accomplished all of the major test objectives we had set out for the second practice countdown," said Adrian Laffitte, director-Atlas launch programs. "This WDR presented some challenges to the team, which is just what these rehearsals are meant to do. It really gives us the feel of an actual launch day."
WDR is the process of duplicating all launch day operations, including propellant loading. It is a major pre-launch test that proves all airborne and ground hardware and software are ready to perform. In subsequent Atlas V campaigns, the WDR will typically be performed 10 days before launch. The Atlas II and III series, which have a perfect launch record, routinely perform WDRs before launch.
For WDR number two, the Atlas V, designated AV-001, rolled to the pad on its mobile launch platform (MLP) from the vertical integration facility (VIF) early the morning of May 15, and the process began to load the super-cold liquid propellants onboard the booster and Centaur upper stage. This process was about 80 percent complete when software noted a pressure reading that halted the countdown. The operation was secured for the day. The team resolved the issue the next day and the wet dress rehearsal test resumed on Friday, May 17, concluding with a roll back to the vertical integration facility from the launch pad on Saturday, May 18.
Other recent important milestones for the Atlas V program include successful pathfinding activity to validate the process of installing solid rocket boosters on the Atlas V vehicle. In addition, the first of the new 5.4-meter payload fairings, which will enclose the largest payloads Atlas V will launch, arrived at the Cape for pathfinding activity at Astrotech, the payload processing facility near Cape Canaveral. These systems will fly on the first Atlas V-501 series.
The Atlas V family is designed to lift payloads up to 19,000 pounds (nearly 8,700 kg) to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). Lockheed Martin developed it to meet the U.S. Air Force requirements for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program and for commercial missions, both of which are marketed and managed by International Launch Services (ILS). The Atlas V incorporates state-of-the-art designs, materials and processes, including the RD-180 engine, most of which have been flight-proven on the Atlas III.
ILS offers the broadest range of launch services in the world along with products with the highest reliability in the industry. Atlas rockets and their Centaur upper stages are built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems company-Astronautics Operations at facilities in Denver, Colo.; Harlingen, Texas; and San Diego, Calif. ILS, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Russian companies Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center and RSC Energia, also offers the three-stage Proton rocket. ILS pioneered the concept of mutual backup between the two families of vehicles, to assure timely launches for its customers.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, headquartered in Denver, Colo., is one of the major operating units of Lockheed Martin Corporation. Space Systems designs, develops, tests, manufactures and operates a variety of advanced technology systems for military, civil and commercial customers. Chief products include a full-range of space launch systems, including heavy-lift capability, ground systems, remote sensing and communications satellites for commercial and government customers, advanced space observatories and interplanetary spacecraft, fleet ballistic missiles and missile defense systems.