ILS To Launch NRO Mission As First Atlas V Flight From Upgraded Pad
McLEAN, Va., 02-MAR-04 -- International Launch Services (ILS), a Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE:LMT) joint venture, has been given the green light for what will be the first Atlas V launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The launch will be from Space Launch Complex (SLC) 3-East, which is being refurbished to support a late 2005 launch for this national security mission.
The launch is for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), as one of 18 missions assigned to ILS and the Lockheed Martin-built Atlas V rocket under the U.S. Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. This is the formal contract for one of those previously assigned missions, and is fourth of those assignments to be turned into a signed contract.
This also is the second Atlas V/EELV contract for an NRO launch. Details of the payload are classified. ILS has launched five NRO missions on previous versions of Atlas rockets, including two from Vandenberg. The most recent occurred Dec. 2, a month before Lockheed Martin broke ground to upgrade SLC-3E for the more powerful Atlas V vehicle.
Mark Albrecht, ILS president, noted the "long and valued partnership we have with NRO's Office of Space Launch, using the Atlas vehicles. We fully understand the importance of this NRO mission and look forward to this launch as well as two other Atlas missions, on Atlas IIAS and Atlas III vehicles, scheduled for this year."
The Atlas V vehicle is designed to lift payloads up to 19,000 pounds to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). Lockheed Martin developed the Atlas V vehicle to meet Air Force EELV requirements and for ILS commercial missions. The Atlas V vehicle has flown three commercial missions since its debut in August 2002, all successfully.
ILS markets and manages government and commercial missions on the Atlas rocket to customers worldwide. The company is headquartered near Washington, D.C.
The Atlas rockets and their Centaur upper stages are built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company in Denver, Colo.; Harlingen, Texas; and San Diego, Calif.