BY JUSTIN RAY
June 19, 2001 -- Follow the countdown and launch of the ICO global mobile communications satellite aboard a Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket. Reload this page for the very latest on the mission.
TUESDAY, JUNE 19, 2001
0745 GMT (3:45 a.m. EDT)
Lockheed Martin says the orbit achieved was 5,458.4 by 5,456.67 nautical miles with an inclination of 44.91 degrees to the equator. That is virtually a perfect delivery of ICO F-2 by the Atlas 2AS rocket.
Today's launch begins the deployment of ICO's 12-satellite constellation. However, the London-based company has yet to firm up its launch schedule that will use Atlas, Boeing Delta 3 and Russian Proton rockets.
Check back later today for a complete wrap-up story and post-launch reaction. You can check out our mission preview for more on the ICO system, its history and the satellites.
0633 GMT (2:33 a.m. EDT)
0632 GMT (2:32 a.m. EDT)
0631 GMT (2:31 a.m. EDT)
0630 GMT (2:30 a.m. EDT)
0630 GMT (2:30 a.m. EDT)
0628 GMT (2:28 a.m. EDT)
0625 GMT (2:25 a.m. EDT)
0618 GMT (2:18 a.m. EDT)
0611 GMT (2:11 a.m. EDT)
0508 GMT (1:08 a.m. EDT)
0501 GMT (1:01 a.m. EDT)
0455 GMT (12:55 a.m. EDT)
Spacecraft separation is expected at T+plus one hour, 52 minutes, 43 seconds to complete this launch.
0453 GMT (12:53 a.m. EDT)
0451 GMT (12:51 a.m. EDT)
0450 GMT (12:50 a.m. EDT)
0449 GMT (12:49 a.m. EDT)
0447 GMT (12:47 a.m. EDT)
0446 GMT (12:46 a.m. EDT)
0445 GMT (12:45 a.m. EDT)
0444 GMT (12:44 a.m. EDT)
0443 GMT (12:43 a.m. EDT)
0443 GMT (12:43 a.m. EDT)
0443 GMT (12:43 a.m. EDT)
0442 GMT (12:42 a.m. EDT)
0442 GMT (12:42 a.m. EDT)
0441 GMT (12:41 a.m. EDT)
0441 GMT (12:41 a.m. EDT)
0440 GMT (12:40 a.m. EDT)
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.
0440 GMT (12:40 a.m. EDT)
In the past minute, the inertial navigation unit was launch enabled, liquid hydrogen tanking was secured, fuel tank pressures reported stable, the solid rocket boosters were armed and the ignition enable switch was closed.
0439 GMT (12:39 a.m. EDT)
Shortly, the Centaur upper stage will go to internal power and the flight termination system will be armed.
0438 GMT (12:38 a.m. EDT)
And the ICO satellite is confirmed on internal power and go for launch.
0437 GMT (12:37 a.m. EDT)
0436 GMT (12:36 a.m. EDT)
0435 GMT (12:35 a.m. EDT)
0434 GMT (12:34 a.m. EDT)
0429 GMT (12:29 a.m. EDT)
At this point there haven't been any reports of problems and the weather looks like it will cooperate.
0425 GMT (12:25 a.m. EDT)
0423 GMT (12:23 a.m. EDT)
0421 GMT (12:21 a.m. EDT)
0416 GMT (12:16 a.m. EDT)
0411 GMT (12:11 a.m. EDT)
0359 GMT (11:59 p.m. EDT)
0356 GMT (11:56 p.m. EDT)
And interrogation checks have been completed to verify the rocket's C-band beacon is ready for use to track the vehicle during flight.
0354 GMT (11:54 p.m. EDT)
0351 GMT (11:51 p.m. EDT)
0341 GMT (11:41 p.m. EDT)
0336 GMT (11:36 p.m. EDT)
0333 GMT (11:33 p.m. EDT)
Meanwhile, the Atlas liquid oxygen tank is now 80 percent full.
0329 GMT (11:29 p.m. EDT)
0326 GMT (11:26 p.m. EDT)
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.
And 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.
0317 GMT (11:17 p.m. EDT)
The countdown is proceeding on schedule for launch at 12:41 a.m. EDT. There are no major technical snags threatening tonight's liftoff and officials remain hopeful the weather will be acceptable. There are thunderstorms west and north of the Cape, but no rain near the complex. Meteorologists are watching the clouds associated with the surrounding storms, which would be the constraint against launch.
0314 GMT (11:14 p.m. EDT)
0312 GMT (11:12 p.m. EDT)
The chilldown conditioning of liquid hydrogen propellant lines at pad 36B is now 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.
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 36B.
0307 GMT (11:07 p.m. EDT Mon.)
0256 GMT (10:56 p.m. EDT Mon.)
0251 GMT (10:51 p.m. EDT Mon.)
0246 GMT (10:46 p.m. EDT Mon.)
Meanwhile, gaseous helium chilldown of the Centaur engines and pneumatic bottle charge for the stage have started. Also, checks of the wind damper arm and launcher pyrovent arm connecting the Atlas 2AS rocket with the launch tower will be getting underway.
0241 GMT (10:41 p.m. EDT Mon.)
0237 GMT (10:37 p.m. EDT Mon.)
At launch pad 36B the tower securing work, final checks and removal of stabilization shims have been completed. The technicians are now ready to depart the complex.
0226 GMT (10:26 p.m. EDT Mon.)
The 219-foot tall mobile service tower has been retracted to 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.
0211 GMT (10:11 p.m. EDT Mon.)
The count has 45 minutes of built-in holds scheduled over the course the evening that will lead to liftoff. A second and final hold is planned at 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.
Two minor nits are being discussed by the launch team, but neither appear serious at this point.
The Air Force reports there are no Safety Collision Avoidance periods, or COLAs, that would prohibit liftoff during any portion of tonight's two-hour launch window. Also, computer analysis shows that should a explosion occur, debris would fall in the cleared impact areas based on current wind conditions tonight.
0141 GMT (9:41 p.m. EDT Mon.)
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 and Centaur main engine igniter checks were also started.
0126 GMT (9:26 p.m. EDT Mon.)
Night has fallen here on the east-central coast of Florida but the tension level is rising with three hours and 15 minutes remaining in the countdown to the 12:41 a.m. EDT launch time.
The countdown is being controlled from the Complex 36 Blockhouse where the 120-member launch team has assembled to oversee the activities leading up to liftoff of the Atlas rocket designated AC-156.
Lockheed Martin is not reporting any technical problems and the weather looks generally favorable for launch during tonight's two-hour window.
MONDAY, JUNE 18, 2001
"Thunderstorms are forming as expected this afternoon along the east-coast seabreeze and interior portions of Florida. The steering flow however is extremely light from the southeast, which should slowly carry the storms inland and away from CCAFS by 2000 local (8 p.m. EDT). These storms are producing Anvil Clouds however, that are spreading towards Cape Canaveral due to the light winds aloft. These storms are expected to diminish after sunset but there is the chance that some residual Anvil Clouds and Thick Cloud layers may be in the area during the launch window.
"There are two concerns for tonight's launch; the slight chance of afternoon thunderstorms forming within 5 nm of SLC 36 during the early portion of the launch countdown, and the chance of stratified Thick Cloud layers and enhanced Cumulus Clouds on station during the launch window."
The launch time weather conditions are forecast tolude scattered cumulus clouds at 3,000 feet with 3/8ths sky coverage, a broken deck of altostratus clouds at 12,000 feet with 5/8ths sky coverage, cirrus clouds at 24,000 feet with 6/8ths sky coverage, visibility of 7 miles or better, light and variable winds at 5 knots, a temperature of 75 to 77 degrees F and relative humidity of 70 percent.
Should the launch slip 24 hours for some reason there is an 80 percent chance of acceptable conditions during Wednesday's window of 12:43 to 2:43 a.m. EDT. The main threat will be the possibility of enhanced cumulus clouds in the area.
Our next update on this page should come with the start of the Integrated Launch Operations portion of the countdown at 9:26 p.m. EDT.
1951 GMT (3:51 p.m. EDT)
Throughout the evening crews in the blockhouse and at pad 36B will proceed through their standard countdown chores needed to ready the Atlas booster and its Centaur upper stage for launch.
And in the next few minutes the ICO satellite is scheduled to be powered up so technicians can perform the final work to configure the spacecraft for its journey to space.
Highlights of activities planned tonight include starting Centaur propulsion launch preps at 5:06 p.m.; powering up the rocket's flight control system at 5:11 p.m.; starting Atlas propulsion and hydraulic systems preps at 5:36 p.m.; starting preps of the pad's tower and mobile service structure at 6:06 p.m.; performing the flight control operational test at 6:11 p.m.; starting the internal power test of Atlas/Centaur at 6:46 p.m.; performing a navigation test of rocket's guidance computer at 6:56 p.m.; starting Centaur engine ignitor checks at 7:06 p.m.; starting Centaur helium purges at 8:16 p.m.; and starting liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen system final preps at 9:21 p.m.
The Integrated Launch Operations -- the formal portion of the countdown -- begins at 9:26 p.m. with all the launch team members at their respective positions.
The mobile service structure should start rolling away from the Atlas rocket at 9:41 p.m., weather permitting. The tower can be retracted via remote control later in the countdown if weather conditions force a delay.
Countdown clocks will enter a planned 30-minute hold at 10:11 p.m. at the T-minus 105 minute mark. During this time the launch team will have a chance to catch up on any work that might be running behind schedule.
Fueling of the rocket with super-cold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen cryogenics commences after the countdown is restarted. Centaur liquid oxygen tanking starts at 10:55 p.m.; followed by loading liquid oxygen into the Atlas stage at 11:16 p.m.; and lastly liquid hydrogen fueling of Centaur 11:32 p.m.
A final planned hold is scheduled at T-minus 5 minutes for 15 minutes in duration. If there are no problems standing in the way of liftoff, the countdown will resume 12:36 a.m. for an on-time launch at 12:41 a.m.
Making its first flight of 2001, the Atlas booster is poised to place ICO's first communications spacecraft into a unique orbit around Earth. Launch is planned for 12:41 a.m. EDT (0441 GMT) Tuesday from pad 36B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Duration of the flight of AC-156 is one-hour, 52 minutes, 43 seconds from liftoff through spacecraft separation.
The Atlas has a two-hour launch window in which to lift off.
The weather forecast calls for an 80 percent chance of acceptable conditions. Launch Weather Officer Jim Sardonia provided this summary in his forecast issued Sunday:
"On Monday, a weak surface trough is expected to move into central Florida triggering early afternoon thunderstorms along the east-coast seabreeze and interior portions of Florida. The steering flow however is expected to be very light from the southeast, which should slowly carry the storms inland and away from CCAFS by 8 p.m. With the weak surface trough remaining over central Florida during the countdown, there will be a slight chance of residual Thick Cloud layers and enhanced Cumulus clouds in the area during the launch window.
"There are two concerns for launch day: The chance of afternoon thunderstorms on station during the early stages of the launch countdown on Monday, and the chance of stratified Thick Cloud layers and enhanced Cumulus Clouds on station during the launch window."
If thunderstorms and lightning move too close to the launch pad, workers will be forced to clear the tower for safety reasons. Officials are concerned that countdown activities could fall behind schedule if crews are chased off the pad for any significant period of time Monday evening.
A backup launch opportunity will be available early Wednesday with the window opening at 12:43 a.m. EDT. The forecast calls for an 80 percent chance of good weather.
It will be ICO's second try to begin deploying its satellite constellation. The first craft was lost in a failed flight of a Sea Launch Zenit 3SL rocket in March 2000.
ICO plans to launch 10 primary satellites and two spares for its network that will circle 6,456 statute miles (10,390 kilometers) above the planet in a so-called Medium Earth Orbit (MEO). The spacecraft will be separated into two orthogonal planes, with each group having five main satellites and one backup. The planes will be inclined 45 degrees to the equator, allowing complete, overlapping coverage of the Earth.
Known as ICO F-2, the satellite to fly Tuesday will serve as a testbed for ICO to ensure the spacecraft and ground systems can operate together properly.
"This launch achieves one of our most important milestones," said Greg Clarke, ICO chief executive officer. "It sets us on a course to build out this system and offer a range of unique services to the market."
In addition to voice and digital data transmissions, the ICO system will also provide users with wirlesss Internet and packet-data services. ICO could be ready for commerical service in 2003.
Boeing Satellite Systems is building 15 satellites for ICO -- the 10 primaries, two in-space spares, two ground spares and the one lost on Sea Launch.
The 6,000-pound ICO satellites are modified versions of Boeing's popular 601-model design. They are 25 percent taller, standing 16 feet high due to the transmit and receive antennas. Each craft features integrated C- and S-band payload with 5,100 watts of power and a peak effective isotropic radiated power of 58 dBW. They can support 4,500 simultaneous telephone calls. An onboard narrow band digital processor will perform channelization, routing and beam-forming of the S-band payload.
"This satellite design incorporates a number of unique design features," said Randy Brinkley, president of Boeing Satellite Systems. "The satellites carry more computing power than 600 Pentium III-based computers. They feature innovative transmit and receive antennas allowing direct air link to users and use a 'smart processor' capable of adapting beam configuration to match demand. These features give ICO unprecedented flexibility to meet ever-changing market demands on a global basis."
ICO was formed in 1995, but experienced financial troubles and went into bankruptcy. Life was restored in the system with a $1.2 billion acquisition by Craig McCaw in a deal completed last May. The revamped ICO concept was enhanced to provide more data relay capability over the original focus of providing cellular telephone service.
Spaceflight Now will be your source for comprehensive live coverage of this Atlas mission with a running commentary of the countdown and launch. Our coverage will originate from the vantage point of Lockheed Martin's new Atlas 5 Space Operations Center -- a state-of-the-art facility under construction at Cape Canaveral's Complex 41. The ASOC will serve as the launch control center for the next generation Atlas 5 rocket, as well as Atlas 2 and 3 rockets starting later this year.
Flight data file
Vehicle: Atlas 2AS (AC-156)
Payload: ICO F-2
Launch date: June 19, 2001
Launch window: 12:41-2:41 a.m. EDT (0441-0641 GMT)
Launch site: SLC-36B, Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Satellite broadcast: Telstar 5, Trans. 23, C-band
Launch timeline - Chart with times and descriptions of events to occur during the launch.
Ground track - See the trajectory the rocket will follow during its flight.
Atlas 2AS vehicle data - Overview of the rocket that will launch the classified NRO payload.
ICO - Description of the satellite to be launched on AC-156.
Launch windows - Listing of the available times to launch in coming days.
Restricted zone - Map outlining the Launch Hazard Area where mariners should remain clear for the liftoff.
Atlas index - A directory of our previous Atlas launch coverage.
The mission poster for AC-156. Photo: ILS
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