BY JUSTIN RAY

Follow the countdown and launch of the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket carrying the Spanish Hispasat 1D communications satellite. Reload this page for the very latest on the mission. Use our text only page for faster downloads.

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2002

Like clockwork, a Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket blasted off on schedule Wednesday, toting a Spanish telecommunications satellite high above Earth to rack up another successful launch. Read our full launch story.

Here are some video clips of the Atlas/Hispasat 1D mission for our Spaceflight Now Plus subscribers. You are not a yet a subscriber, click here to sign up for a low monthly or annual fee.

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2250 GMT (6:50 p.m. EDT)

Officials report the orbit injection was right on the money with a high point of 45,956 km, nearly reaching the ceiling cap of 46,000 km.

We'll pause our coverage now. Check back later tonight for movies, pictures and a wrap-up launch story.

2240 GMT (6:40 p.m. EDT)

Hispasat 1D builder Alcatel Space reports ground controllers have acquired the signal from the spacecraft, confirming the satellite is alive following its launch into space.

2232 GMT (6:32 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 28 minutes, 51 seconds. SPACECRAFT SEPARATION! The Spanish Hispasat 1D telecommunications satellite has been released into space following launch by the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket. All appears to have gone well during the launch. This marks the 62nd consecutive successful launch by an Atlas rocket dating back to 1993.

2232 GMT (6:32 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 28 minutes, 15 seconds. Spinup of the Centaur upper stage has started in advance of payload deployment in less than a minute.

2231 GMT (6:31 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 27 minutes. The Centaur is beginning its reorientation maneuver to prepare for releasing Hispasat 1D. Officials report a guidance-commanded engine shutdown after reaching the target orbit.

2230 GMT (6:30 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 26 minutes, 14 seconds. MECO 2. Centaur has completed its second firing, completing the powered phase of today's launch. Good shut down of the twin RL-10 engines reported. Coming up on deployment of the Hispasat 1D satellite at about T+plus 28 minutes, 52 seconds.

2229 GMT (6:29 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 25 minutes, 30 seconds. Second burn of Centaur continuing well.

2228 GMT (6:28 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 24 minutes, 35 seconds. Centaur is up and burning again at full thrust. The two RL-10 engines have reignited for a minute, 45-second firing to accelerate the Hispasat 1D payload into its required orbit around Earth.

2228 GMT (6:28 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 24 minutes. Lockheed Martin reports the parking orbit achieved is down just fractions from perfect with a high point of 374.436 km, low point of 151.067 km and inclination of 27.4405 degrees.

2226 GMT (6:26 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 22 minutes. The vehicle is now approaching the African Ivory Coast as it coasts above the Central Atlantic. Now about two minutes until Centaur engine restart.

2224 GMT (6:24 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 20 minutes. Coast phase of the mission continues. No much to report at this point. Centaur ignition is four-and-a-half minutes away.

2219 GMT (6:19 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 15 minutes. The vehicle remains in this coast period in preparation for restart of the Centaur upper stage, which is about 9 minutes away.

2215 GMT (6:15 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 11 minutes. So the vehicle is in orbit. The first stage performed as expected and the Centaur has completed its initial firing. No problems have been reported in the flight. Restart of the upper stage is expected at T+24 minutes, 29 seconds.

2213 GMT (6:13 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 9 minutes, 48 seconds. MECO 1. The Centaur main engines have shut down as planned following the first of two planned firings to deliver the Hispasat 1D payload into a preliminary parking orbit. The vehicle will coast for about 14 minutes before the Centaur reignites.

2213 GMT (6:13 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 9 minutes. Downrange distance 921 miles, velocity 14,770 mph.

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

T+plus 8 minutes, 40 seconds. Centaur continues burn normally.

2211 GMT (6:11 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 7 minutes, 40 seconds. Altitude 102 miles, downrange distance 680 miles, speed 12,200 mph.

2211 GMT (6:11 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 7 minutes. Vehicle is now being tracked by the Antigua downrange station. Engine operating parameters reported normal.

2210 GMT (6:10 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 6 minutes. Centaur's RL-10 powerplants continue to burn normally. Smooth flight reported. Velocity is over 10,000 miles per hour.

2209 GMT (6:09 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 5 minutes, 18 seconds. Ignition and full thrust of Centaur's two engines.

2209 GMT (6:09 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 5 minutes. The sustainer engine on Atlas has shut down as planned. And separation of the Atlas stage confirmed.

2208 GMT (6:08 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 4 minutes, 40 seconds. Vehicle continues right down the predicted Range track.

2207 GMT (6:07 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 3 minutes, 55 seconds. Altitude 69 miles, downrange distance 168 miles, speed 7,500 miles per hour as the sustainer engine continues to burn.

2207 GMT (6:07 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 3 minutes, 35 seconds. The payload fairing has been jettisoned. It is no longer needed to protect Hispasat 1D satellite during flight through the atmosphere.

2207 GMT (6:07 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 still firing.

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

T+plus 2 minutes. Having burned all their propellant, the air-lit solid rocket boosters have separated from the Atlas rocket.

2205 GMT (6:05 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 78 seconds. The two spent ground-started solid rocket boosters have jettisoned to fall into the Atlantic Ocean. Atlas liquid-fueled engines continue to fire normally along with the two air-lit SRBs.

2205 GMT (6:05 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 60 seconds. The ground-lit solid rocket boosters have burned out and the air-lit motors have ignited.

2204 GMT (6:04 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 30 seconds. Pitch and roll programs underway as the vehicle heads eastward away from Florida. The Atlas engines and solid rocket boosters are firing to propel the vehicle and commercial communications satellite payload to a supergeosynchronous transfer orbit.

2204 GMT (6:04 p.m. EDT)

LIFTOFF! Liftoff of the Spanish Hispasat 1D communications spacecraft aboard Lockheed Martin's 25th Atlas 2AS rocket! And the vehicle has cleared the tower.

2203 GMT (6:03 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 31 seconds. The launch sequence has been activated.

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.

2203 GMT (6:03 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 1 minute. Engines are being verified ready for flight. The final status checks of the propellant and pneumatic systems are upcoming to confirm the Atlas and Centaur stages are "go" for launch.

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.

2202 GMT (6:02 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 solid rocket booster fire commands have been enabled and the vehicle's inadvertent separation destruct safety system has been armed.

Shortly, the Centaur upper stage will go to internal power and the flight termination system will be armed.

2201 GMT (6:01 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.

And the Hispasat spacecraft payload is confirmed "go" for launch.

2200 GMT (6:00 p.m. EDT)

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

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

T-minus 5 minutes and counting! The clocks are running again. We are now inside the final portion of today's countdown for the launch of the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket with the Hispasat 1D satellite payload from pad 36A at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Liftoff is set for 6:04 p.m. EDT.

2158 GMT (5:58 p.m. EDT)

Standing by to resume the countdown in one minute for blastoff at 6:04 p.m. EDT.

Should a problem force the countdown to be stopped inside the final 5 minutes, here is an explanation of recycle options depending on when the clocks were halted:

From the start of the automatic countdown at T-minus 31 seconds until T-minus 0.7 seconds, the launch conductor will be able to stop the countdown manually. A hold during the automatic sequence between T-minus 31 seconds and T-minus 11.3 seconds will equire a recycle to T-minus 5 minutes. A hold between T-minus 12 seconds and T-minus 9 seconds will require a recycle to T-minus 5 minutes for a minimum of one hour to re-initialize the INU in preparation for reentering the terminal count. A hold after Atlas start tanks are pressurized or Centaur equipment module vent door squibs fire (T-minus 8.65 seconds) and before T-minus 4 seconds will necessitate a launch abort and require a recycle to T-minus 24 hours. A hold after T-minus 4 seconds but prior to T-minus 0.7 seconds will necessitate a launch abort and require a 48 hour recycle.

2157 GMT (5:57 p.m. EDT)

Lockheed Martin Launch Director Adrian Laffitte has given his "go" to resume the countdown and proceed to liftoff at 6:04 p.m. EDT. There are now no technical problems, the weather is within limits, upper level winds are acceptable and the Range is clear. Standing by to resume the countdown in two minutes.

2156 GMT (5:56 p.m. EDT)

The Lockheed Martin final readiness poll of the entire launch team was just performed by Launch Conductor Ed Christiansen in the Complex 36 Blockhouse. Everyone reported "go" for launch!

2155 GMT (5:55 p.m. EDT)

The Anomaly Team recommends proceeding the with launch. The liquid oxygen issue will not be a problem for an on-time liftoff today, officials said.

2154 GMT (5:54 p.m. EDT)

Now 10 minutes away from the scheduled launch time. The final readiness polls of the launch team and managers are coming up momentarily for the "go" to continue the countdown to liftoff.

The discussions about the ground liquid oxygen storage tank is continuing. The leak rate is about 150 gallons per minute. Officials are hopeful this won't be a constraint against launch.

2151 GMT (5:51 p.m. EDT)

Hispasat 1D is on internal power for liftoff.

2148 GMT (5:48 p.m. EDT)

The Hispasat 1D communications satellite payload atop the Atlas rocket is now switching from ground-fed power to internal batteries for launch.

2147 GMT (5:47 p.m. EDT)

The blockhouse escape tunnel doors are now being sealed.

2146 GMT (5:46 p.m. EDT)

A Lockheed Martin spokesman says there is enough liquid oxygen in the storage tank for keeping the rocket topped off through the 6:04 p.m. EDT launch time and a few minutes into the window.

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

T-minus 5 minutes and holding. The countdown has entered this final planned hold. The pause is scheduled to last 15 minutes.

The Atlas liquid oxygen tank has reached flight level. The tank is fully loaded. The leak issue is only a concern for violating the limit of LOX in the storage tank for keeping the vehicle topped off. The cryogenic naturally boils away and the vehicle has to be replenished during the countdown.

2141 GMT (5:41 p.m. EDT)

Three minutes away from entering the planned hold at T-minus 5 minutes.

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

Upon further review, the launch team says the liquid oxygen topping valve is not the source of the leak.

2135 GMT (5:35 p.m. EDT)

While engineers assess this liquid oxygen leak issue and any impact to proceeding with launch today, the launch team is taking measures to conserve the liquid oxygen supply.

2131 GMT (5:31 p.m. EDT)

Launch team reports the source of the liquid oxygen leak could be around the LOX topping valve. Discussions are continuing.

Meanwhile, Launch Weather Officer Jim Sardonia just reported that all conditions are still good for liftoff today.

2129 GMT (5:29 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 20 minutes and counting. Countdown clocks are ticking down to the T-minus 5 minute mark where a 15-minute hold will occur. Liftoff still set for 6:04 p.m. EDT (2204 GMT).

The Anomaly Team has been asked to discuss an issue with the liquid oxygen storage tank. The launch team is reporting that the tank level is significantly lower at this point in fueling process than it was recently during the countdown dress rehearsal. The concern is having enough LOX to top off the vehicle for launch. There is the possibility of leak in the tank, which is on the ground-side and not on the rocket.

And a little while ago, interrogation checks were performed to verify the rocket's C-band beacon is ready for use to track the vehicle during flight.

2123 GMT (5:23 p.m. EDT)

The Centaur liquid hydrogen is now reported at flight level.

2118 GMT (5:18 p.m. EDT)

Topping of the Atlas liquid oxygen tank is underway.

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.

The countdown continues to progress well for today's $194 million launch of the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket and Hispasat 1D satellite at 6:04 p.m. EDT. There is a 38-minute launch window available if needed.

2115 GMT (5:15 p.m. EDT)

The Atlas liquid oxygen tank has reached the 98 percent level where it is being maintained. Topping to 100 percent will be completed shortly.

2114 GMT (5:14 p.m. EDT)

The Centaur hydrogen tank is now at 97 percent, heading to flight level.

2104 GMT (5:04 p.m. EDT)

Now one hour away from the scheduled launch time. There are no problems to report with the rocket, payload or weather.

Fueling of the rocket with super-cold rocket fuel is continuing as planned. The Centaur hydrogen tank is now 40 percent full; the Atlas liquid oxygen tank is at 70 percent; and the Centaur liquid oxygen tank has been filled.

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

The liquid hydrogen chilldown is now complete and the "go" has been given to load the super-chilled fuel into 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 Hispasat 1D satellite into the targeted geosynchronous transfer orbit today.

2055 GMT (4:55 p.m. EDT)

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

2046 GMT (4:46 p.m. EDT)

The "go" has now been given to commence loading of the Atlas first stage liquid oxygen tank.

And Centaur liquid oxygen topping to flight level is underway. As the countdown proceeds, the tank will be replenished to replace the cryogenic liquid oxygen that naturally boils away.

Also, 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.

2043 GMT (4:43 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 shortly.

2037 GMT (4:37 p.m. EDT)

The chilldown conditioning of liquid hydrogen propellant lines at pad 36A 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 door of the Complex 36 Blockhouse is being sealed, protecting the 120-member launch team. The Blockhouse is located a few hundred feet away from the Atlas 2AS rocket at pad 36A, and serves as the control center for the countdown to launch.

2034 GMT (4:34 p.m. EDT)

Launch is now 90 minutes away. The Centaur liquid oxygen tank now above the 50 percent mark. There are no technical problems with the Atlas 2AS rocket or Hispasat 1D spacecraft that are standing in the way of launch at 6:04 p.m. EDT. Weather is also looking great.

2026 GMT (4:26 p.m. EDT)

The Centaur upper stage's liquid oxygen tank is now 10 percent full in this early portion of fueling operations.

2020 GMT (4:20 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 stage a little later in the countdown.

2005 GMT (4:05 p.m. EDT)

The "chilldown" procedure is 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.

Read our earlier status center coverage.

Flight data file
Vehicle: Atlas 2AS (AC-159)
Payload: Hispasat 1D
Launch date: Sept. 18, 2002
Launch window: 6:04-6:42 p.m. EDT (2204-2242 GMT)
Launch site: SLC-36A, Cape Canaveral AFS, Florida
Satellite broadcast: Telstar 5, Transponder 23, C-band

Pre-launch briefing
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 to be used in this launch.

Hispasat 1D - Description of this Spanish telecommunications satellite.

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


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