Lockheed Martin Begins Atlas V West Coast Launch Pad Renovations SLC 3E Being Readied For Atlas V Missions in Fall 2005
Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA, 14-JAN-04 -- Lockheed Martin celebrated another significant milestone in its Atlas V program today. Representatives from Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Air Force kicked off the new year with a ground breaking ceremony at Space Launch Complex 3E (SLC-3E) at Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA, heralding the beginning of renovations that are now underway to prepare the launch site for Atlas V west coast missions. The first Atlas V west coast launch from SLC-3E is scheduled for Fall 2005 and will carry a U.S. government payload.
"This is another significant step forward for assured access to space for our nation and for the Atlas program," said Michael C. Gass, vice president of space transportation for Lockheed Martin Space Systems. "Today's ground breaking event with our Air Force customer and with the Air Force launch support team at Vandenberg exemplifies the important partnership between government and industry that will ensure our nation's ability to launch vital national security payloads for the next two decades and beyond. The entire team is eager to get this pad ready to receive its first west coast Atlas V in just 12 months."
Today's ceremony marked the beginning of a robust pad renovation effort that is now underway at SLC-3E to support Atlas V missions from Vandenberg Air Force Base. First up will be demolition of the current flame bucket, then pouring concrete for a new, larger flame bucket with a larger "throat" to accommodate the exhaust that roars from the Atlas V's powerful RD-180 engine system and up to five solid rocket boosters. The Atlas V 400 and 500 series of launch vehicles will provide over two times the lift capability of the Atlas IIAS launch vehicle, which completed its final mission from SLC-3E in December 2003. All missions of the Atlas IIAS have been successful.
"It's great to see the heritage of the Atlas program continuing its legacy here at Vandenberg," said Col. John Insprucker, director of the U.S. Air Force EELV Systems Program Office. "It's another arrow in our quiver as a means of preserving our nation's asymmetric advantage in space."
Lockheed Martin developed the Atlas V family of launch vehicles to meet the needs of the U.S. Air Force Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program and to meet the needs of International Launch Services (ILS) customers worldwide. ILS markets and provides mission integration and mission management for the Lockheed Martin-built Atlas and Russian-built Proton launch vehicles. Atlas V has already flown three consecutive successful missions, for a total of 68 consecutive successful Atlas launches since 1993.
Over the next 12 months, the SLC-3E Mobile Service Tower (MST), the Umbilical Tower (UT) and the launch pad area will be modified to accommodate the larger Atlas V configuration. Some of the major modifications include removing the roof of the MST and raising it by approximately 30 feet, to a height of 239 feet, to accommodate the Atlas V 500 series with the larger payload fairing. The MST structure will be reinforced with more steel, a new bridge crane will be installed to handle the heavier loads, and a new state-of-the-art computer control center will be installed. Pathfinder operations will begin in January 2005 with the Atlas V launch vehicle that will boost a payload for the U.S. government in Fall 2005.