Spaceflight Now: Atlas launch report


BY JUSTIN RAY

October 19, 2000 -- Read about the countdown and launch of the DSCS B11 communications satellite aboard a Lockheed Martin Atlas 2A rocket. Reload this page for the very latest on the mission.

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2000

A $200 million satellite that will relay sensitive U.S. national security communications between the president, military and diplomats was rocketed into orbit tonight by a Lockheed Martin Atlas booster. Read our launch story.

0106 GMT (9:06 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 26 minutes, 45 seconds. SPACECRAFT SEPARATION! The Defense Satellite Communications System B11 spacecraft has been released into orbit following a smooth launch today by the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2A rocket. This marks the 53rd consecutive successful launch by an Atlas rocket dating back to 1993.

Check back later tonight for a complete wrap up story on the launch, plus video and images.

0105 GMT (9:05 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 25 minutes, 30 seconds. Spinup of the Centaur upper stage to 4.7 rpm has started in advance of DSCS B11 deployment in less than a minute.

0104 GMT (9:04 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 24 minutes, 30 seconds. The Centaur is beginning its reorientation maneuver to prepare for releasing the payload.

0104 GMT (9:04 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 24 minutes. MECO 2. Centaur has completed its second firing with a commanded engine shutdown. Good engine shutdown signatures were seen in data from the rocket. Coming up on deployment of DSCS B11 at T+plus 26 minutes, 39 seconds.

0102 GMT (9:02 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 22 minutes, 30 seconds. Centaur is up and burning again with full thrust reported. The two RL-10 engines have reignited for an 86-second firing to accelerate the DSCS B11 satellite into its required orbit around Earth.

0100 GMT (9:00 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 20 minutes. Two minutes until Centaur restart.

0058 GMT (8:58 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 18 minutes. There is not much to report at this point in the flight. The rocket's signal will be acquired from the Ascension Island tracking station in about two minutes.

0055 GMT (8:55 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 15 minutes. The Centaur stage continues its quiet coast period before a second firing, which is due to begin at T+plus 22 minutes, 16 seconds.

0052 GMT (8:52 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 12 minutes, 30 seconds. Data indicates the Lockheed Martin Atlas/Centaur rocket has performed very well so far. The parking orbit achieved is basically perfect compared to the pre-launch predicted altitude. The high point was expected to be 485.15 miles, actual is 485.14 miles; the low point was predicted to be 80.0 miles and the actual is 79.94 miles; and inclination is just a few fractions off the planned 29.3 degrees.

0050 GMT (8:50 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 10 minutes, 15 seconds. MECO 1. The Centaur main engines have cut off as planned following the first of two planned firings to deliver the DSCS B11 satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit. So far all has gone as planned with no problems reported.

0049 GMT (8:49 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 9 minutes, 15 seconds. Downrange distance is 880 miles, velocity up to 14,000 mph.

0049 GMT (8:49 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 9 minutes. Just over one minute remaining in this firing of the Centaur upper stage. Vehicle continues right down the proper track.

0048 GMT (8:48 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 8 minutes. All vehicle data is reported to normal as the Atlas/Centaur rocket streaks to orbit.

0047 GMT (8:47 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 7 minutes. The Antigua downrange tracking station has acquired signal from the rocket. The station is relaying data in realtime to Cape Canaveral.

0046 GMT (8:46 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 6 minutes. The Centaur upper stage's twin RL-10 engines continue to fire.

0045 GMT (8:45 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 5 minutes, 10 seconds. Ignition of the Centaur upper stage has occurred.

0044 GMT (8:44 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 5 minutes. The sustainer engine on Atlas has shut down as planned and the spent stage has separated.

0044 GMT (8:44 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 4 minutes. The payload fairing has separated. It is no longer needed to protect the DSCS B11 spacecraft during the launch.

0043 GMT (8:43 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 3 minutes, 15 seconds. Altitude is 44 miles, downrange distance 87 miles, velocity is 6400 mph.

0043 GMT (8:43 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 3 minutes. The booster engines have shut down and the booster package -- the bottom section of the rocket -- has been jettisoned. The sustainer engine of the Atlas vehicle continues to fire.

0042 GMT (8:42 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 2 minutes. Vehicle reported to be following the proper trajectory. Atlas stage engines continue to burn normally.

0041 GMT (8:41 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 80 seconds. Vehicle passing through maximum pressure.

0041 GMT (8:41 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 60 seconds. Atlas engines firing as planned.

0040 GMT (8:40 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 30 seconds. Pitch and roll programs underway.

0040 GMT (8:40 p.m. EDT)

LIFTOFF! Liftoff of the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2A rocket launching a new spacecraft for the Defense Satellite Communications System -- the backbone of U.S. national security communications. And the vehicle has cleared the tower.

0039 GMT (8:39 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 31 seconds. Launch Sequence Start. The Atlas 2A rocket's onboard computer is now controlling the remainder of the countdown.

In the next few seconds the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen vent valves will be locked and the flight data recorders will be readied. The engine ignition sequence will begin at T-minus 2.4 seconds.

0039 GMT (8:39 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 1 minute. Engines are being verified ready for flight and final status checks are upcoming.

In the past minute, the inertial navigation unit was launch enabled, liquid hydrogen tanking was secured, fuel tank pressures reported stable and the ignition enable switch was closed.

0038 GMT (8:38 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 2 minutes. Pressurization of the Atlas/Centaur vehicle has started. Tanks now being brought to proper pressure levels for flight. Also, the rocket's engine have been prepared for launch.

Shortly, the rocket's inadventant separation destruct safety system will be armed, the Centaur upper stage will go to internal power and the flight termination system will be armed.

0037 GMT (8:37 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 3 minutes. The water system is being readied for activation at launch pad 36A. Water will flood the pad to suppress the sound produced at liftoff and protect the ground support systems.

0036 GMT (8:36 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 4 minutes. The Atlas booster stage and Flight Termination System are switching from ground-supplied power to internal bateries.

0035 GMT (8:35 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 5 minutes and counting. The countdown has resumed for launch of the Lockheed Martin Atlas/Centaur rocket -- tail number AC-140 -- with the Defense Satellite Communications System B11 spacecraft this evening from pad 36A at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. There are now no problems standing in the way of liftoff at 8:40 p.m. EDT.

0033 GMT (8:33 p.m. EDT)

The Lockheed Martin final readiness poll of the entire launch team was just performed by Launch Conductor John Martin in the Complex 36 Blockhouse with all parties reporting a "go" for liftoff. Lockheed Martin Launch Director Adrian Laffitte then gave his approval for liftoff from the Mission Directors Center in the Cape Canaveral Industrial Area. The final Launch Decision Authority is in the hands of the U.S. Air Force, which gave the "go" to resume the countdown for 8:40 p.m. EDT.

0030 GMT (8:30 p.m. EDT)

Now 10 minutes away from the launch of the Atlas rocket tonight from Cape Canaveral.

0021 GMT (8:21 p.m. EDT)

The two technical problems holding up tonight's launch have been put to rest with liftoff now set for 8:40 p.m. EDT. The pressure level on the retraction system on one of the pad's umbilical booms has been verified within limits for launch. The review of the master data file, meanwhile, turned up three instances where a 14-foot rocket nose cone was noted. However, the rocket actually has a 11-foot diameter fairing for this launch. Those errors have been resolved, clearing the problem.

0018 GMT (8:18 p.m. EDT)

Engineers are currently meeting to discuss the pressure switch concern with a launch pad umbilical arm to determine whether the problem can be resolved tonight. The master data file review continues.

0008 GMT (8:08 p.m. EDT)

NEW LAUNCH TIME. Liftoff is now set for 8:40 p.m. EDT after another countdown hold extension. So to recap, the countdown remains holding at T-minus 5 minutes due to a pair of problems. There is a technical concern with one of the launch pad umbilical arms, plus a review of the master data file is being performed after it found that some information in the package said the rocket had a 14-foot payload fairing when it really has a 11-foot nose cone. Officials want to review the file to ensure there are no other issues.

0002 GMT (8:02 p.m. EDT)

The Range is "go" for launch now that the barge has left the danger area off the coast. Meanwhile, the master data file is being review because it was discovered the package reflected a 14-foot diameter nose cone on the rocket instead of the slimmer 11-foot fairing used on tonight's launch. Also, the launch pad arm problem remains outstanding.

2357 GMT (7:57 p.m. EDT)

NEW LAUNCH TIME! The hold at T-minus 5 minutes will be extended another 15 minutes for liftoff at 8:30 p.m. EDT. The available launch window goes to 8:55 p.m. in which to get the Atlas rocket off the ground tonight.

2354 GMT (7:54 p.m. EDT)

The Range remains "no go" due to the intruding vessel in the launch danger area off the coast of Cape Canaveral where the rocket flies over on its way to orbit. The Air Force now reports it is a barge and hope it can be cleared shortly. Meanwhile, engineers continue to review the pressure level in a launch pad swing arm and a possible work-around to resolve the issue, plus the master data file concern.

2350 GMT (7:50 p.m. EDT)

The countdown clock remains stuck at T-minus 5 minutes and holding due to a technical issue and a boat that has strayed into the restricted safety zone in the Atlantic Ocean. Liftoff is currently scheduled for 8:15 p.m. EDT if these two problems can be resolved.

2344 GMT (7:44 p.m. EDT)

NEW LAUNCH TIME. Lockheed Martin Launch Director Adrian Laffitte reports the earliest the Atlas rocket could fly tonight is 8:15 p.m. EDT because of the two problems being worked. The available launch window extends to 8:55 p.m. EDT.

2341 GMT (7:41 p.m. EDT)

The Range is now "no go" because a boat has been found inside the restricted launch danger area off the coast of Cape Canaveral.

2334 GMT (7:34 p.m. EDT)

NEW LAUNCH TIME. Officials have decided to add another 10 minutes to this hold at T-minus 5 minutes. Liftoff will now occur no sooner than 7:56 p.m. EDT.

2331 GMT (7:31 p.m. EDT)

Lockheed Martin Launch Director Adrian Laffitte reports the countdown will remain holding while engineers review the "master data file" before committing to liftoff. The launch has been retargeted for 7:46 p.m. EDT (2346 GMT).

2329 GMT (7:29 p.m. EDT)

The Lockheed Martin final readiness poll of the entire launch team was just performed by Launch Conductor John Martin in the Complex 36 Blockhouse but a "no go" was announced. The countdown will not resume from T-minus 5 minutes and there will be at least a brief delay of tonight's launch.

2326 GMT (7:26 p.m. EDT)

Now 10 minutes away from launch.

2323 GMT (7:23 p.m. EDT)

The data link has been restored. Liftoff remains set for 7:36 p.m. EDT. A final poll of the launch team and senior management will occur prior to picking up the countdown at 7:31 p.m. EDT.

2321 GMT (7:21 p.m. EDT)

Now 15 minutes away from the scheduled launch time for the Atlas rocket and its DSCS B11 military communications satellite payload. There has not been any update on the data link problem between a downrange tracking station and the satellite's control station. The Air Force Eastern Range is currently "no go" for launch due to this problem. Today's available launch window extends from 7:36 to 8:55 p.m. EDT.

2316 GMT (7:16 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 5 minutes and holding. The countdown has entered the planned hold. This pause is slated to last 15 minutes, giving the launch team time to catch up on any work that could be running behind schedule. Also during this time officials will need to assess a couple of technical problems that are being worked, including a data link that is down between Diego Garcia tracking station in the Indian Ocean and Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado. The link is required to track the DSCS B11 spacecraft during its early time in orbit.

The good news is the weather is now "go" for launch, as expected.

2311 GMT (7:11 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 10 minutes and counting. Coming up on the planned 15-minute built-in hold at T-minus 5 minutes.

2306 GMT (7:06 p.m. EDT)

Now 30 minutes away from the scheduled launch time of the Atlas rocket. The launch team is currently working three issues -- the downrange tracking station problem, the launch pad swing arm pressure problem (noted much earlier in the countdown) and the weather.

2303 GMT (7:03 p.m. EDT)

The U.S. Air Force reports there is a communications relay link problem between the Diego Garcia tracking station in the Indian Ocean and Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado. This link is needed for the Defense Satellite Communications System B11 spacecraft the Atlas is launching tonight to connect the downrange station and Schriever where the satellite is controlled.

2301 GMT (7:01 p.m. EDT)

The passing rainshower over Cape Canaveral is expected to move out of the area in the next 10 to 15 minutes. The conditions are forecast to be acceptable for liftoff at 7:36 p.m. EDT.

Meanwhile, the Range is currently "no go" due to a communications issue.

2259 GMT (6:59 p.m. EDT)

The pogo suppression system at pad 36B has been readied. The system will be used to dampen the "bounce" of the rocket during engine ignition. Also the C-band beacon is reported at "go". The beacon will be used to track the rocket during flight. And the self test of the flight termination system has been completed.

2256 GMT (6:56 p.m. EDT)

It is currently raining at the Cape Canaveral press site just over a mile from the launch pad. A final weather briefing from Launch Weather Officer Jim Sardonia is expected in about five minutes. The weather forecast indicated a for 100 percent chance of acceptable conditions for launch over the past several days.

2251 GMT (6:51 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 30 minutes and counting. Countdown clocks marching down to the T-minus 5 minute mark where a 15-minute hold will occur. Fueling of the rocket's liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen tanks is nearing completion.

2249 GMT (6:49 p.m. EDT)

An inhibited self test of the rocket's Flight Termination System is starting. The FTS would be used to destroy the vehicle in the event of a malfunction during launch.

2239 GMT (6:39 p.m. EDT)

Fueling of the Atlas rocket and its Centaur upper stage goes on. The Centaur liquid oxygen tank is now full at flight level, the Atlas liquid oxygen tank is 90 percent full and increasing and the Centaur liquid hydrogen tank is just over the 60 percent level.

2236 GMT (6:36 p.m. EDT)

Now one hour from the scheduled launch of the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2A rocket from Cape Canaveral. Our live reports are coming to you from a view area at Complex 41 where Lockheed Martin is building its launch control center for the next-generation Atlas 5 rocket.

The countdown has been proceeding smoothly with only a couple of minor technical nits. The weather is absolutely perfect on this Central Florida evening.

2233 GMT (6:33 p.m. EDT)

The Anomaly Team has been asked to look discuss an issue just noted with the liquid hydrogen flow control valve. The valve is reported to be 100 percent open but the launch team is not seeing a temperature decrease as expected. The Centaur liquid hydrogen tank is now 20 percent full.

2227 GMT (6:27 p.m. EDT)

The liquid hydrogen chilldown is now complete and the super-cold fuel is flowing to fill the Centaur upper stage. The cryogenic propellant will be consumed with liquid oxygen by the stage's Pratt & Whitney-made RL-10 engines to propel the DSCS B11 satellite cargo into a geosynchronous transfer orbit today.

2223 GMT (6:23 p.m. EDT)

The liquid oxygen tank inside the Atlas booster stage is now at 20 percent. The rocket's shiny exterior is now turning a frosty white as a thin layer of ice forms from the super-cold liquid oxygen.

Meanwhile, Centaur liquid oxygen topping to flight level has started. As the countdown proceeds, the tank will be replenished to replace the cryogenic liquid oxygen that naturally boils away.

2220 GMT (6:20 p.m. EDT)

The Anomaly Team has been asked to look at a decreasing pressure reading in a upper boom cylinder at the launch pad.

2216 GMT (6:16 p.m. EDT)

The final alignment of the Atlas rocket's inertial navigation guidance computer has been completed, and the flight control system final preps are now beginning.

2212 GMT (6:12 p.m. EDT)

The Centaur liquid oxygen tank has reached 95 percent full level where it is being maintained. Topping to 100 percent will be completed later. And now loading of liquid oxygen into the Atlas booster stage is beginning.

2206 GMT (6:06 p.m. EDT)

Now 90 minutes away from liftoff. The chilldown conditioning of liquid hydrogen propellant lines at pad 36A is starting. This process is like the one performed on the liquid oxygen side whereby a small amount of the liquid is released from the pad's storage tank to prepare the plumbing for transferring the Minus-423 degree F fuel into the rocket.

Loading of liquid oxygen into the Centaur upper stage continues with the tank over half-full.

Also at this time the doors of the Complex 36 Blockhouse are being sealed. The 120-member launch team is inside the blockhouse controlling the countdown just a few hundred yards away from pad 36A.

2159 GMT (5:59 p.m. EDT)

The Centaur upper stage's liquid oxygen tank is now 30 percent full in this early portion of fueling operations.

2149 GMT (5:49 p.m. EDT)

Chilldown conditioning of the liquid oxygen transfer lines at pad 36A has been completed and the launch team is now beginning to fill the Centaur upper stage with its its supply of super-cold cryogenic oxidizer. The liquid oxygen is chilled to Minus-298 degrees F, and will be consumed by the Centaur's twin RL-10 engines along with liquid hydrogen to be pumped into the start a little later in the countdown.

2144 GMT (5:44 p.m. EDT)

The latest steering program is being loaded into the rocket's guidance computer based upon the upper level wind conditions. Also, checks of the wind damper arm and launcher pyrovent arm connecting the Atlas 2A rocket with the launch tower is underway.

2137 GMT (5:37 p.m. EDT)

The "chilldown" procedure is now starting to thermally condition the liquid oxygen propellants lines at pad 36A in advance of loading the Centaur upper stage. Chilldown is a process in which a small amount of the super-cold liquid oxygen is released from the pad's storage tank into the feed lines that lead to the rocket.

Meanwhile, gaseous helium chilldown of the Centaur engines and pneumatic bottle charge for the stage have started.

2136 GMT (5:36 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 105 minutes and counting. The countdown has been restarted after a planned half-hour built-in hold. Activities remain on track for liftoff in two hours at 7:36 p.m. EDT (2336 GMT)

2133 GMT (5:33 p.m. EDT)

Launch Conductor John Martin has just polled the launch team for a readiness to begin fueling the Atlas rocket. All parties reported "go" status. The Air Force, which is governing this launch, then polled with senior management for approval to start loading super-cold liquid propellants into the vehicle. Countdown clocks are due to resume at 5:36 p.m. EDT from the T-minus 105 minute mark and the initial stages of fueling will get underway moments later.

2121 GMT (5:21 p.m. EDT)

Now half-way through this 30-minute scheduled hold at T-minus 105 minutes. The launch team is not working any significant issues and the weather will not be a problem for liftoff tonight. At launch pad 36A, technicians are finishing up work securing the complex before departing so fueling of the rocket can get underway.

The Air Force reports there are no collision avoidance periods, or COLAs, that would prohibit liftoff during any portion of tonight's 79-minute launch window.

2106 GMT (5:06 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 105 minutes and holding. Clocks have entered a planned 30-minute hold period for the countdown this evening at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for launch of the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2A rocket. Launch remains scheduled for 7:36 p.m. EDT (2336 GMT).

2057 GMT (4:57 p.m. EDT)

Retraction of the 219-foot tall mobile service tower has been completed with the structure now in the launch position. The tower is used to erect the rocket on the launch pad, provide access for workers to all areas of the vehicle and protection from the weather. It is electrically driven on four-wheel assemblies.

In the countdown, the C-band systems test has started. The beacon is used to track the rocket in flight. Also, monitoring of the hazarous gas detection system has begun and the high-flow rate helium purges have started for the Centaur upper stage .

2036 GMT (4:36 p.m. EDT)

The mobile service tower at launch pad 36A is beginning to roll away from the Atlas 2A rocket. Also, the launch team is starting the final alignment of the vehicle's guidance computer following the completion of a navigation test.

2021 GMT (4:21 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 150 minutes and counting. Man stations for Integrated Launch Operations. The entire launch team is now reporting on station at Cape Canaveral's Complex 36 for the liftoff of the Atlas 2A rocket at 7:36 p.m. EDT

Launch Weather Officer Jim Sardonia reports conditions are still perfect. All weather currently acceptable and forecast to remain that way tonight. At launch time meteorologists are calling for just some scattered low-level cumulus clouds at 3,000 feet, northeasterly winds 10 to 18 knots and a temperature in the mid-70s F.

2015 GMT (4:15 p.m. EDT)

Good afternoon from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida where the countdown is entering the final three-and-a-half-hours to the launch of a Lockheed Martin Atlas-Centaur rocket and the Defense Satellite Communications System B11 spacecraft.

The countdown began at 10:46 a.m. EDT (1446 GMT) this morning from the T-minus 485 minutes. The count has 45 minutes of built-in holds scheduled over the course the day that will lead to liftoff at 7:36 p.m. EDT (2336 GMT). The holds will occur at T-minus 105 minutes for 30 minutes and T-minus 5 minutes for 15 minutes.

The holds are designed to give the launch team a window of time to work any problems that could arise without delaying other pre-flight preparations.

Over the past couple of hours, the launch team at Complex 36 have worked through propulsion launch preps for the Atlas and Centaur stages, powered up the rocket's flight control system, conducted Atlas hydraulic system and Atlas and Centaur pneumatic preps. Navigation tests of the rocketŐs Inertial Navigation Unit and Centaur main engine igniter checks were also started.

Currently the 120 members of the blockhouse crew and senior managers are gathering in advance of starting the Integrated Launch Operations for this seventh Atlas flight of 2000. The crews will report on station at 4:21 p.m. EDT. At launch pad 36A, meanwhile, technicians are making final preparations to retract the mobile service tower from around the rocket. The tower should begin rolling into its launch position at 4:36 p.m. EDT. Once the tower is back, workers depart the pad area so fueling of the rocket can get underway.

1410 GMT (12:10 p.m. EDT)

The countdown is underway at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as a Lockheed Martin Atlas 2A rocket is just hours away from an evening blastoff to deliver a crucial national security communications satellite into Earth orbit for the U.S. government. Liftoff is still set for 7:36 p.m. EDT (2336 GMT), the opening of a 79-minute launch window.

Officials say there are no technical problems being addressed with the rocket or its DSCS B11 satellite payload.

The weather is also promising with a 100 percent chance of acceptable conditions. "Expect ideal weather conditions tonight, as high pressure to our north will bring only benign cumulus clouds and light northeasterly winds. There are no weather concerns at this time," Launch Weather Officer Jim Sardonia said this morning.

The launch time forecast calls for the possibility of scattered cumulus clouds with 3/8ths sky coverage extending from 2,000 up to 6,000 feet, visibility of 7 miles or better, northeasterly winds 10 to 18 knots, a temperature of 74 to 76 degrees F and relative humidity of 70 percent.

0401 GMT (12:01 a.m. EDT)

With a forecast for perfect weather conditions, Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Air Force are gearing up for tonight's scheduled launch of an Atlas 2A rocket carrying the Defense Satellite Communications System B11 spacecraft. Liftoff remains scheduled for 7:36 p.m. EDT (2336 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Spaceflight Now will provide over four hours of live streaming video and audio of the countdown and launch starting at 4:15 p.m. EDT (2015 GMT) today. Feel like a member of the launch team by watching the same video as the real rocket engineers see during the countdown and liftoff. Plus listen into the team's communication channels without public affairs commentary for the entire broadcast. See the Webcast page for details on how to tune in.

Countdown clocks at Complex 36 will begin ticking this morning at 10:46 a.m. EDT. With the count underway, activities will include powering up the rocket for flight at 12:06 p.m. Launch preparations for propulsion systems of the rocket begin at separate times: Centaur upper stage at 12:01 p.m. and Atlas booster stage at 12:31 p.m.

The rest of the early afternoon will be spent preparing the vehicle's hydraulic and pneumatic systems, the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel systems, conducting telemetry and RF link checks, performing a navigation test of the onboard guidance computer and Centaur main engine ignitor checks.

The entire launch team will report on station to begin the Integrated Launch Operations phase of the countdown at 4:21 p.m. Retraction of the mobile service tower from around the Atlas rocket at pad 36A is scheduled for 4:36 p.m. and can be seen live in our Webcast.

This page will be updated throughout the final hours of the countdown for up-to-the-minute reports on the launch status.

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2000

A Lockheed Martin Atlas 2A rocket is undergoing final preparations for liftoff Thursday evening from pad 36A at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The $80 million rocket will launch the $200 million Defense Satellite Communications System B11 spacecraft into orbit in a mission governed by the U.S. Air Force.

The available window in which the Atlas can launch on Thursday opens at 7:36 p.m. EDT and extends 79 minutes to 8:55 p.m. EDT (2336-0055 GMT).

Air Force weather forecasters are predicting a 100 percent chance of acceptable conditions. Launch Weather Officer Jim Sardonia provided this update on Tuesday:

"Strong high pressure over the southeast U.S. will bring very stable conditions to east Florida all week. Expect ideal weather conditions Thursday night as this high pressure center will bring mostly clear skies and light northeasterly winds. There are no weather concerns at this time."

The launch time forecast calls for the possibility of scattered cumulus clouds with 3/8ths sky coverage extending from 2,000 up to 6,000 feet, visibility of 7 miles or better, northeasterly winds 10 to 18 knots, a temperature of 74 to 76 degrees F and relative humidity of 70 percent.

Should the launch be delayed to Friday or Saturday for some reason, the weather forecast calls for a 90 percent chance of good conditions on both days. There will be only a slight concern for nearby clouds and rainshowers that would violate the launch weather rules.

Workers will spend today installing the Safe and Arm devices on the rocket, performing a navigation test of the vehicle's guidance computer and starting the efforts to close the protective payload fairing around the DSCS spacecraft for flight.

Countdown activities on Thursday will begin at 10:46 a.m. EDT when clocks start ticking down to the scheduled liftoff time.

Spaceflight Now is your source for unrivaled live coverage of the launch beginning with a first-of-its-kind Webcast of countdown video and launch team communications starting at 4:15 p.m. EDT (2015 GMT) Thursday from Cape Canaveral.

This page, our Mission Status Center, will also have continuous running updates to provide a play-by-play call of the countdown and 30-minute flight of the Atlas rocket.

Video vault
The Lockheed Martin Atlas 2A rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral with the DSCS B11 spacecraft.
  PLAY (254k, 36sec QuickTime file)

The bottom engine structure is separated from the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2A rocket nearly three minutes into flight.
  PLAY (103k, 14sec QuickTime file)

Animation of the DSCS satellite's early operations once in space.
  PLAY (183k QuickTime file)

Download QuickTime 4 software to view this file.

Flight data file
Vehicle: Atlas 2A (AC-140)
Payload: DSCS B11
Launch date: Oct. 19 2000
Launch window: 2336-0055 GMT (7:36-8:55 p.m. EDT)
Launch site: SLC-36A, Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Flight profile
Track the major launch events for the Atlas 2A rocket carrying the DSCS B11 satellite on Spaceflight Now's interactive flight profile page (requires JavaScript).

Pre-launch briefing
Launch preview - Read our story for a complete preview of the DSCS B11 launch.

Launch timeline - Chart with times and descriptions of events to occur during the launch.

Atlas 2A vehicle data - Overview of the rocket that will launch DSCS B11 into space.

DSCS - Description of the satellite to be launched on AC-140.

Launch windows - Listing of the available opportunities to launch in coming days.

Atlas index - A directory of our previous Atlas launch coverage.


Snapshot
Patch
The mission patch for DSCS B11. Photo: USAF

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