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The Mission




Rocket: Atlas 2AS (Atlas/Centaur-163)
Payload: Superbird 6
Date: April 15, 2004
Window: 8:45 to 9:18 p.m. EDT (0045-0118 GMT on 16th)
Site: Complex 36A, Cape Canaveral, Florida
Satellite feed: Galaxy 3, Transponder 22, C-band

Launch events timeline

Ground track map

Orbit insertion graphic

Launch hazard area



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Premium video content for our Spaceflight Now Plus subscribers.

Atlas rocket lifts off
The Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket launches the Japanese Superbird 6 communications spacecraft from Cape Canaveral, Florida. (3min 09sec file)
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Payload deployed
The Japanese Superbird 6 communications spacecraft is successfully deployed from the Centaur upper stage to complete the launch. (57sec file)
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Celebrating success
Officials make celebratory speeches following the launch of Superbird 6 aboard the Atlas rocket. (3min 34sec file)
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Launch animation
Preview the launch of Lockheed Martin's Atlas 2AS rocket carrying the Superbird 6 communications satellite with this narrated animation package. (2min 51sec file)
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Superbird animation
This animation shows the Japanese Superbird 6 spacecraft manuevering itself into geostationary orbit and deploying its antennas and solar panels. (60sec file)
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The most recent Atlas
The Lockheed Martin Atlas 3A rocket launches in mid-March carrying the Mobile Broadcasting Satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida. (5min 04sec file)
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The Payload




The Superbird 6 satellite, built by Boeing, will be used to provide communications services across Japan.

Learn more



The Launcher




Lockheed Martin's Atlas 2AS rocket, equipped with four strap-on solid boosters, makes its 28th flight during the launch of Superbird 6.

Atlas 2AS fact sheet

Archived Atlas coverage



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BY JUSTIN RAY

Follow the countdown and launch of the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket with the Japanese Superbird 6 communications satellite. Reload this page for the very latest on the mission.

Spaceflight Now Plus
Additional coverage for subscribers:
VIDEO: ATLAS ROCKET LAUNCHES SUPERBIRD 6 QT
VIDEO: PAYLOAD IS SUCCESSFULLY RELEASED FROM UPPER STAGE QT
VIDEO: OFFICIALS MAKE CELEBRATORY SPEECHES AFTER LAUNCH QT
VIDEO: NARRATED ATLAS/SUPERBIRD LAUNCH PREVIEW QT
VIDEO: ANIMATION OF SUPERBIRD 6 DEPLOYED IN ORBIT QT
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FRIDAY, APRIL 16, 2004

Blessed with perfect weather for a space shot and a smooth-as-silk countdown, a Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket blasted off Thursday night to deliver a Japanese communications satellite into a record-setting high orbit designed to economize the payload's precious fuel supply. Read our full story.

0250 GMT (10:50 p.m. EDT)

The Superbird 6 spacecraft was placed into a supersynchronous transfer orbit with an apogee of 122,343 km, perigee of 167.1 km and inclination of 26.25 degrees.

The mission requirements were an apogee between 86,886 and 123,622 km, perigee of 167.0 plus or minus 2.0 km and inclination less than or equal to 28.1 degrees.

0115 GMT (9:15 p.m. EDT)

The orbit achieved following the second Centaur burn appears to be on target, Lockheed Martin says.

This is the 71st consecutive successful launch of an Atlas rocket, dating back to 1993.

0115 GMT (9:15 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 30 minutes, 12 seconds. SPACECRAFT SEPARATION! The Japanese Superbird 6 communications spacecraft has been released into space following launch by the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket!

Built by Boeing, Superbird 6 will be operated in geostationary orbit by Tokyo-based Space Communications Corp. to provide television broadcasting and broadband services across the Asia-Pacific region.

0114 GMT (9:14 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 29 minutes. Standing by for release of the payload over central Africa.

0113 GMT (9:13 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 28 minutes, 35 seconds. Centaur has reached the proper orientation. The upper stage has now begun its spin-up maneuver to 5 rpm in preparation for Superbird separation.

0112 GMT (9:12 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 27 minutes. Centaur is now reorienting to the proper position for satellite deployment.

0111 GMT (9:11 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 26 minutes, 23 seconds. MECO 2. The Centaur engines have shut down, completing the powered phase of today's launch. Deployment of Superbird 6 is four minutes away.

0110 GMT (9:10 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 25 minutes, 30 seconds. Telemetry from Centaur shows engine temperatures and pressures are right as expected.

0109 GMT (9:09 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 24 minutes, 34 seconds. Ignition and full thrust! The Pratt & Whitney RL10 engines of the Centaur upper stage are firing for the burn to boost the Superbird 6 cargo from the current parking orbit to a highly elliptical supergeosynchronous transfer orbit around Earth.

0109 GMT (9:09 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 24 minutes. The parking orbit achieved is right on target at 81 by 214 nautical miles, Lockheed Martin reports.

0108 GMT (9:08 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 23 minutes, 40 seconds. The Centaur pre-ignition sequence has started, positioning valves, pressurizing the tanks and readying the engines for start.

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

T+plus 21 minutes. This upcoming Centaur firing, scheduled to last just under two minutes in duration, occurs over the Atlantic Ocean between the African Ivory Coast and Ascension Island as the rocket passes over the equator. The burn lasts until the Centaur consumes all of its fuel for a so-called "minimum residual shutdown" to put the payload into the best orbit possible.

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

T+plus 19 minutes. Settling thrusters on the 33-foot long Centaur are firing during this coast as planned. The vehicle is following its launch sequence as designed.

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

T+plus 15 minutes. Just under 10 minutes until the Centaur ignites again.

0057 GMT (8:57 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 12 minutes, 50 seconds. Centaur continues its quiet coasts across the Atlantic before engine restart.

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

T+plus 10 minutes, 50 seconds. Telemetry from the Centaur upper stage indicates tank and bottle pressures look good, the batteries are healthy and systems are operating normally as the vehicle settles into this planned coast phase.

0054 GMT (8:54 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 9 minutes, 49 seconds. MECO 1. The Centaur main engines have shut down as planned following the first of two planned firings to deliver the Superbird 6 spacecraft into the desired orbit this evening. The vehicle will coast for about 15 minutes before the Centaur reignites to propel the satellite into supergeosynchronous transfer orbit.

0053 GMT (8:53 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 8 minutes. Centaur engine parameters remain normal. The rocket is 105 miles in altitude, 805 miles downrange from the launch pad, traveling at 11,800 miles per hour.

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

T+plus 7 minutes, 30 seconds. Just over two minutes remaining in this first firing of the Centaur upper stage to achieve a preliminary parking orbit around Earth.

0051 GMT (8:51 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 6 minutes, 30 seconds. Centaur systems are reported healthy as the engine firing continues as planned.

0051 GMT (8:51 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 6 minutes, 5 seconds. The rocket is 103 miles in altitude and traveling at 9,300 miles per hour.

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

T+plus 5 minutes, 31 seconds. The Centaur's twin RL10 engines have ignited with full thrust!

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

T+plus 5 minutes, 6 seconds. The sustainer engine on Atlas has shut down. And the 82-foot long first stage has been jettisoned from the Centaur upper stage. The exhausted first stage will plummet into the ocean below.

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

T+plus 4 minutes, 30 seconds. Vehicle continues right down the predicted Range track at an altitude of 75 miles as the sustainer engine continues to burn.

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

T+plus 3 minutes, 39 seconds. The payload fairing has been jettisoned. It is no longer needed to protect Superbird 6 satellite during flight through the atmosphere.

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

T+plus 3 minutes, 10 seconds. The Atlas vehicle is 47 miles in altitude, 101 miles east of pad 36A, traveling at 6,600 mph.

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

T+plus 2 minutes, 51 seconds. After reaching 5.0 g's of axial acceleration, the booster engines have shut down on the first stage. The bottom section of the rocket containing these two outer engine nozzles was then jettisoned.

Atlas is now in the sustainer solo phase of flight. This is the firing of the center engine of the Atlas vehicle to consume the remaining fuel in the first stage.

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

T+plus 2 minutes. Having burned all their propellant, the air-lit ATK Thiokol solid rocket boosters have separated from the Atlas rocket. The vehicle is now riding the power of its Rocketdyne MA-5A engine system.

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

T+plus 90 seconds. The Atlas vehicle is 8 miles in altitude, 5 miles east of pad 36A, traveling at 2,000 mph.

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

T+plus 85 seconds. The two spent ground-started solid rocket boosters have jettisoned from the Atlas 2AS rocket's first stage to fall into the Atlantic Ocean. The two-air lit boosters continue to fire along with the first liquid-fueled engines.

The vehicle remains on the proper track.

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

T+plus 61 seconds. The two ground-lit solid rocket boosters have burned out and the two air-lit motors have ignited. Standing by for jettison of the spent SRB casings.

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

T+plus 38 seconds. Chamber pressures on the ground-lit boosters are peaking as expected.

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

T+plus 15 seconds. The Atlas rocket has cleared the tower at Complex 36A. The liquid-fueled MA-5A main engine package and two solid rocket boosters are generating 685,000 pounds of thrust to propel the vehicle away from Earth.

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

LIFTOFF! Liftoff of the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket to put the Superbird 6 spacecraft into orbit to provide communications across the Asia-Pacific region.

0044 GMT (8:44 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.

0044 GMT (8:44 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.

0043 GMT (8:43 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.

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

T-minus 3 minutes. All systems remain "go" for liftoff of the Atlas 2AS rocket on its 30-minute mission to deliver the Superbird 6 spacecraft into supergeosynchronous transfer orbit.

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

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

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

T-minus 4 minutes, 30 seconds. 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.

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

T-minus 5 minutes and counting! The final phase of today's countdown has commenced for launch of the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket carrying the Superbird 6 communications spacecraft. Liftoff is slated for 8:45 p.m. EDT from pad 36A at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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

Standing by to pick up the countdown in one minute.

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

Lockheed Martin launch director Adrian Laffitte has given his "go" to resume the countdown for liftoff at 8:45 p.m. EDT.

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

Launch conductor Ed Christiansen has polled the launch team for readiness to continue the countdown. No problems were reported!

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

Just ten minutes are remaining to cap this flawless countdown to launch of AC-163 -- a Lockheed Martin Atlas-Centaur rocket.

0034 GMT (8:34 p.m. EDT)

The Superbird 6 spacecraft is confirmed on internal power for launch.

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

The Superbird 6 satellite payload atop the Atlas 2AS rocket is switching to its internal batteries for launch.

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

The launch team readiness poll is coming up in seven minutes.

0025 GMT (8:25 p.m. EDT)

The Complex 36 blockhouse escape tunnel doors are now being sealed.

0025 GMT (8:25 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 5 minutes and holding. The countdown has entered this final planned hold in tonight's launch operation. The pause is scheduled to last 15 minutes.

During this hold, the launch team will verify all systems are ready for flight. Management will also conduct a series of polls before giving final approval to continue with the countdown.

Liftoff remains set for 8:45 p.m. EDT.

0023 GMT (8:23 p.m. EDT)

There are 22 minutes left to go before launch of the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Countdown clocks will enter a planned hold in two minutes.

0020 GMT (8:20 p.m. EDT)

Lockheed Martin is not reporting any technical problems with the rocket, Range or payload.

0015 GMT (8:15 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 15 minutes and counting. Countdown clocks are ticking down to the T-minus 5 minute mark where a 5-minute hold will occur. Liftoff still set for 8:45 p.m. EDT.

0011 GMT (8:11 p.m. EDT)

The launch weather officer has conducted the final planned pre-launch briefing to managers. All launch weather rules are currently "go" for liftoff and expected to remain that way.

The Air Force forecasters predicted three days ago that there would be a 100 percent chance of favorable conditions for this evening's launch. The prediction has held true.

Skies remain clear, visibility is excellent and winds are well within limits.

0007 GMT (8:07 p.m. EDT)

The Atlas first stage liquid oxygen tank is now reported at flight level. Centaur upper stage liquid hydrogen and oxygen tanking reached flight level earlier, meaning the rocket is now fully fueled for launch.

But given the cryogenic nature of the liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen loaded into the rocket tonight, the supplies naturally boil away and the propellants have to be replenished during the countdown.

0006 GMT (8:06 p.m. EDT)

The Flight Termination System test has been completed. Also, the upper stage liquid hydrogen tank has reached flight level.

0005 GMT (8:05 p.m. EDT)

The countdown is still tracking toward an on-time launch of the Atlas rocket from Cape Canaveral tonight. Liftoff is targeted for 8:45 p.m. EDT -- the opening of a 33-minute window in which to launch.

2358 GMT (7:58 p.m. EDT)

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

2357 GMT (7:57 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.

2355 GMT (7:55 p.m. EDT)

The final configuration work is beginning for the Superbird 6 spacecraft payload atop the Atlas 2AS rocket. Built by Boeing, the satellite will be operated in geostationary orbit by Tokyo-based Space Communications Corp. to provide television broadcasting and broadband services across the Asia-Pacific region.

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

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

2352 GMT (7:52 p.m. EDT)

The Centaur hydrogen tank and Atlas oxygen tank have each reached the 90 percent mark.

2347 GMT (7:47 p.m. EDT)

The liquid oxygen tank in the Atlas first stage has reached the 80 percent mark. The Centaur hydrogen tank is half full.

2345 GMT (7:45 p.m. EDT)

One hour remains until launch time. The sun is setting on a perfect evening for a rocket launch -- clear skies, comfortable temperatures and a nice breeze.

2342 GMT (7:42 p.m. EDT)

The Centaur liquid oxygen tank is now at flight level.

2340 GMT (7:40 p.m. EDT)

The Atlas liquid oxygen tank is half full and the Centaur hydrogen tank has reached the 10 percent mark as fueling operations continue for tonight's 8:45 p.m. EDT liftoff.

2336 GMT (7:36 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 RL10 engines to propel the Superbird 6 spacecraft into the targeted supergeosynchronous transfer orbit this evening.

2332 GMT (7:32 p.m. EDT)

The Atlas liquid oxygen tank is now 20 percent full.

Meanwhile, the toggling pneumatics system measurement has been deemed not an issue.

2325 GMT (7:25 p.m. EDT)

The final alignment of the Atlas rocket's inertial navigation guidance computer has been completed. The flight control system final preps have begun.

2324 GMT (7:24 p.m. EDT)

The Anomaly Team has been asked to examine a toggling measurement on the Atlas first stage pneumatics system that is dipping below the operational limit.

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

The Centaur liquid oxygen tank has reached 95 percent full level where it is being secured. Topping to 100 percent will be completed shortly. As the countdown proceeds, the tank will be replenished to replace the cryogenic liquid oxygen that naturally boils away.

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

2318 GMT (7:18 p.m. EDT)

The liquid oxygen tank in Centaur is 80 percent full.

2315 GMT (7:15 p.m. EDT)

The chilldown conditioning of liquid hydrogen propellant lines at pad 36A is now starting 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 just 1,400 feet away from the Atlas 2AS rocket at pad 36A, and serves as the control center for the countdown to launch.

And the liquid oxygen transfer unit is being conditioned for loading the first stage.

2309 GMT (7:09 p.m. EDT)

The Centaur liquid oxygen tank is 40 percent full.

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

The Centaur liquid oxygen tank has reached the 10 percent mark as fueling operations get underway at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for today's 8:45 p.m. EDT launch of the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket.

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

The chilldown conditioning of the liquid oxygen transfer lines at pad 36A is complete. The "go" has now been given to start filling the Centaur upper stage with its its supply of super-cold cryogenic oxidizer.

The liquid oxygen -- chilled to Minus-298 degrees F -- will be consumed during the launch by the Centaur's twin RL10 engines along with liquid hydrogen to be pumped into the stage a little later in the countdown.

2246 GMT (6:46 p.m. EDT)

Safety officials have confirmed that the danger area around the launch pad is cleared of all personnel. This allows the "chilldown" procedure to start for thermal conditioning of the liquid oxygen fuel lines at pad 36A in advance of loading the Centaur upper stage.

Also at this time, the Centaur pneumatic bottle charging and the engine gaseous helium chilldown operations are starting.

2245 GMT (6:45 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 105 minutes and counting. Clocks are ticking again following the planned half-hour hold.

The countdown will continue to T-minus 5 minutes where a planned 15-minute built-in hold is scheduled. Launch of the Atlas 2AS rocket with the Superbird 6 satellite is still scheduled for two hours from now at 8:45 p.m. EDT.

2241 GMT (6:41 p.m. EDT)

The launch team has announced its readiness for the upcoming fueling operations as cryogenic liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellants are pumped into the Atlas and Centaur stages. No problems were reported during the poll by launch conductor Ed Christiansen located in the Complex 36 Blockhouse. Launch director Adrian Laffitte then gave a "ready" status.

At launch pad 36A, workers have completed securing work following mobile service tower rollback. Christiansen has instructed them to clear the area.

2237 GMT (6:37 p.m. EDT)

Eight minutes are remaining in this hold at T-minus 105 minutes. In about three minutes, a readiness check of the launch team will be performed by Lockheed Martin launch conductor Ed Christiansen in preparation for fueling the rocket.

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

Now half-way through this scheduled hold. Lockheed Martin is not reporting any issues this evening and the weather is excellent for liftoff at 8:45 p.m. EDT from pad 36A at Cape Canaveral.

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

T-minus 105 minutes and holding. The countdown has entered a planned 30-minute built-in hold for today's launch of the Atlas 2AS rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

The count has 45 minutes of holds scheduled over the course the evening that will lead to liftoff at 8:45 p.m. EDT (0045 GMT). 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.

With the mobile service tower rolled back, the final securing of the launch complex is being performed before workers clear the pad. The hazardous operation of loading cryogenic propellants into the vehicle will begin after the countdown resumes at 6:45 p.m.

2214 GMT (6:14 p.m. EDT)

The mobile service tower has reached its launch parking position.

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

Crews have completed the launch pad final checks, confirming that equipment and structures are properly configured.

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

Coming up on the built-in hold in five minutes. And the flight hazard area roadblocks are being put up.

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

The Air Force says there are no Collision Avoidance periods, or COLAs, that would prohibit liftoff during today's launch window. COLA cutouts occur to ensure the rocket isn't launched on a course that would take it too close to an object already orbiting in space.

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

The launch weather officer reports that the state of Florida is clear of clouds and there are no echoes on the radar within 500 miles. Forecasters say there is a 100 percent chance of favorable weather for tonight's launch at 8:45 p.m. EDT.

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

The mobile service tower is now clear of the rocket and continuing to roll to the park location for launch.

2150 GMT (5:50 p.m. EDT)

The launch team has begun the C-band system test.

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

The environmental control final preps and the first stage helium storage preps are starting. Also, the hazardous gas detection system monitoring is beginning.

2145 GMT (5:45 p.m. EDT)

With liftoff now three hours away, launch conductor Ed Christiansen has given workers at pad 36A approval to start rolling the mobile service tower away from the Atlas 2AS rocket.

The structure wraps around the rocket, providing access to all areas of the vehicle during its stay on the launch pad. In preparation for fueling and liftoff this evening, the tower is moved a safe distance away, exposing the fully assembled 156-foot tall rocket for the first time.

2140 GMT (5:40 p.m. EDT)

The navigation test on the rocket's Inertial Navigation Unit guidance computer has been completed. The INU final alignment is now underway.

Also, the purges to the Atlas first stage are being initiated at this time.

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

Launch team members have been polled to confirm all are "ready" for mobile service tower rollback. The retraction is slated to begin at 5:45 p.m.

2130 GMT (5:30 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 150 minutes and counting. The countdown is entering a new phase as the "man stations for Integrated Launch Operations" call goes out to team members.

The full launch team has been assembled to oversee the final hours of the countdown for today's flight of the Lockheed Martin Atlas-Centaur rocket on a mission to deliver the Superbird 6 communications satellite into orbit.

There are two holds, lasting for a total of 45 minutes, built into the countdown at T-minus 105 minutes and T-minus 5 minutes. Liftoff is targeted for 8:45 p.m. EDT.

The countdown is being controlled from the Complex 36 Blockhouse where the 120-member team is positioned at consoles to monitor systems, fuel the rocket and perform final tests leading up to liftoff of this Atlas 2AS vehicle. The senior management team is housed in the Atlas 5 Spaceflight Operations Center (ASOC) at Complex 41.

2124 GMT (5:24 p.m. EDT)

The launch weather officer has just briefed mission managers on conditions in advance of mobile service tower retraction from around the Atlas vehicle. This routine weather update is provided so officials can determine if it safe to expose the rocket.

Meteorologists say the weather is ideal for the countdown. Skies remain clear, winds are well within the 30-knot limit and there are no worries for lightning while the rocket is sitting on the pad this evening.

The launch time forecast continues to predict a 100 percent chance of favorable conditions with just a few clouds at 2,000 feet, unrestricted visibility, winds from the north at 12 gusting to 18 knots and a temperature of 62 degrees F.

2110 GMT (5:10 p.m. EDT)

Today's launch countdown remains on schedule at Cape Canaveral for the 8:45 p.m. EDT launch of the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket to deliver a Japanese communications satellite into space. Crews are finishing work to configure the launch pad and prep the mobile service tower for rollback later this hour.

2030 GMT (4:30 p.m. EDT)

Lockheed Martin workers are paying tribute to a well-liked colleague who recently passed away by dedicating tonight's rocket launch in her memory.

A decal reading "Dedicated to Our Friend, Vanessa Haynes" has been placed on one of the solid rocket boosters, launch director Adrian Laffitte said.

Haynes, a 22-year company employee, was a facility planner.

"She was an incredible person, incredible individual, very dedicated to her family, community and church. She did a lot of work with kids, and she sang like an angel -- she had an incredible voice," said Laffitte.

"I think tonight she is going to have the best view of a launch that she ever had because she will be watching from upstairs."

1930 GMT (3:30 p.m. EDT)

Here is a look at some statistics for today's mission, according to Lockheed Martin and its customers:

  • This will be the 582nd flight of an Atlas booster since 1957
  • The 171st launch of a Centaur upper stage (including Atlas and Titan)
  • Centaur's 148th flight on Atlas
  • It is the 80th Atlas-Centaur mission in the commercial era dating to 1990
  • The 28th flight for the Atlas 2AS-model rocket with strap-on solid boosters since debuting in December 1993
  • Just two additional 2AS vehicles are left to fly in May and June before the configuration is retired from service
  • Today marks the third Atlas launch in 2004 and second to use the 2AS model
  • Superbird 6 is the 68th satellite to be launched using the Boeing 601-model spacecraft
  • It is the 26th Boeing 601 flown on Atlas
  • This is the third Boeing-built satellite for Japanese operator Space Communications Corp.
  • If all goes well, today's launch will extend the string of consecutive successful Atlas flights to 71 dating back to 1993

Read our earlier status center coverage.

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