BY JUSTIN RAY

Follow the countdown and launch of the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket with the AMC-10 cable television broadcasting satellite. Reload this page for the very latest on the mission.

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Video coverage for subscribers only:
   VIDEO: 6-MINUTE CLIP OF ATLAS LAUNCHING AMC-10 QT
   VIDEO: POST-LAUNCH COMMENTS FROM MANAGERS QT
   VIDEO: OVERVIEW OF THE AMC-10 CABLE TV SATELLITE QT
   VIDEO: NARRATED ANIMATION PREVIEW OF THIS LAUNCH QT

FROM THE ARCHIVES: MOST RECENT ATLAS 2AS FROM THE CAPE

   VIDEO: LIFTOFF AS SEEN FROM COMPLEX 36 BLOCKHOUSE ROOF QT
   VIDEO: CAMERA LOCATED IN YARD NORTHEAST OF PAD QT
   VIDEO: DRAMATIC CAMERA ANGLE FROM UMBILICAL TOWER QT
   VIDEO: SETTING SUN SERVES AS BACKDROP IN EASTERN VIEW QT
   VIDEO: SOUTH CAMERA VIEW FROM END OF LAUNCH PAD RAMP QT
   VIDEO: TRACKING CAMERA FOLLOWS ROCKET THROUGH T+3 MIN QT
   VIDEO: CLOSE-UP OF ENGINES DURING ASCENT QT
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FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2004

Starting this spring when U.S. cable television viewers flip on the Discovery Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon or Showtime, they will be watching the channels via a broadcasting satellite successfully launched into space Thursday evening from Cape Canaveral. Read our full story.

0022 GMT (7:22 p.m. EST Thurs.)

Senior officials with the launch and spacecraft payload are celebrating this successsful liftoff of Atlas and AMC-10.

The group comes together again in mid-May for the launch of AMC-11 aboard another Atlas 2AS rocket from the Cape.

We will pause our coverage for now. Check back later tonight for videos, pictures and a wrap-up story on today's mission.

0014 GMT (7:14 p.m. EST Thurs.)

T+plus 28 minutes, 20 seconds. SPACECRAFT SEPARATION! The AMC-10 cable television satellite has been released into space following launch by the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket!

This is the 69th consecutive successful launch of an Atlas rocket, dating back to 1993.

0013 GMT (7:13 p.m. EST Thurs.)

T+plus 27 minutes, 38 seconds. The orbit achieved following the second Centaur burn appears to be on target, Lockheed Martin says.

0012 GMT (7:12 p.m. EST Thurs.)

T+plus 26 minutes, 30 seconds. Centaur is now reorienting to the proper position for satellite deployment.

0012 GMT (7:12 p.m. EST Thurs.)

T+plus 26 minutes, 15 seconds. Engine shutdown came on command of the rocket's guidence system once the correct orbit was reached.

0011 GMT (7:11 p.m. EST Thurs.)

T+plus 25 minutes, 57 seconds. MECO 2. The Centaur engines have shut down, completing the powered phase of today's launch. Deployment of AMC-10 is just over two minutes away.

0010 GMT (7:10 p.m. EST Thurs.)

T+plus 24 minutes, 50 seconds. Centaur burning successfully.

0010 GMT (7:10 p.m. EST Thurs.)

T+plus 24 minutes, 02 seconds. Ignition and full thrust! The Pratt & Whitney RL10 engines of the Centaur upper stage are firing for the burn to boost the AMC-10 cargo from the current parking orbit to a highly elliptical geosynchronous transfer orbit around Earth. This will be a one-minute, 57-second burn.

0009 GMT (7:09 p.m. EST Thurs.)

T+plus 23 minutes, 15 seconds. The Centaur pre-ignition sequence has started, positioning valves, pressurizing the tanks and readying the engines for start.

0007 GMT (7:07 p.m. EST Thurs.)

T+plus 21 minutes. Centaur system performance still looking good and body rates on the stage are normal.

0006 GMT (7:06 p.m. EST Thurs.)

T+plus 20 minutes. Engine restart to race into geosynchronous transfer orbit is less than four minutes away.

0004 GMT (7:04 p.m. EST Thurs.)

T+plus 18 minutes. Settling thrusters on the Centaur are firing during this coast as planned.

0002 GMT (7:02 p.m. EST Thurs.)

T+plus 16 minutes. The vehicle is quietly coasting in the preliminary orbit around Earth. No problems have been reported in this launch of the Atlas 2AS rocket.

0000 GMT (7:00 p.m. EST Thurs.)

T+plus 14 minutes. The parking orbit achieved is right on target at 100 by 100 nautical miles, Lockheed Martin reports.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2004
2358 GMT (6:58 p.m. EST)


T+plus 12 minutes. Tank and bottle pressures look good, the batteries are healthy and all remains in normal order aboard the Centaur as it coasts across the Atlantic before engine restart.

2355 GMT (6:55 p.m. EST)

T+plus 9 minutes, 42 seconds. MECO 1. The Centaur main engines have shut down as planned following the first of two planned firings to deliver the AMC-10 spacecraft into the desired orbit this evening. The vehicle will coast for about 14 minutes before the Centaur reignites to propel the satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit.

2355 GMT (6:55 p.m. EST)

T+plus 9 minutes, 35 seconds. Telemetry from the Centaur upper stage indicates all systems are operating normally.

2354 GMT (6:54 p.m. EST)

T+plus 8 minutes, 30 seconds. Just over one minute remaining in this first firing of the Centaur upper stage to achieve a preliminary parking orbit around Earth.

2354 GMT (6:54 p.m. EST)

T+plus 8 minutes, 15 seconds. Centaur has increased its speed to 12,200 miles per hour as the twin RL10 engines continue their burn.

2353 GMT (6:53 p.m. EST)

T+plus 7 minutes, 15 seconds. The Centaur has rolled to an attitude for communications with NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System.

2352 GMT (6:52 p.m. EST)

T+plus 6 minutes. Centaur is firing as planned. The rocket is 105 miles in altitude, 455 miles downrange from the launch pad, traveling at 9,200 miles per hour.

2351 GMT (6:51 p.m. EST)

T+plus 5 minutes, 29 seconds. The Centaur's twin RL10 engines deployed their extendable nozzles after the first stage separated and the cryogenic power plants have ignited.

2351 GMT (6:51 p.m. EST)

T+plus 5 minutes, 12 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.

2350 GMT (6:50 p.m. EST)

T+plus 4 minutes, 30 seconds. Vehicle continues right down the predicted Range track. Altitude 82 miles, downrange distance 250 miles, speed 8,000 miles per hour as the sustainer engine continues to burn.

2349 GMT (6:49 p.m. EST)

T+plus 3 minutes, 34 seconds. The payload fairing has been jettisoned. It is no longer needed to protect AMC-10 satellite during flight through the atmosphere.

2348 GMT (6:48 p.m. EST)

T+plus 2 minutes, 55 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.

2348 GMT (6:48 p.m. EST)

T+plus 2 minutes, 5 seconds. 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.

2347 GMT (6:47 p.m. EST)

T+plus 90 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.

2347 GMT (6:47 p.m. EST)

T+plus 60 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.

2346 GMT (6:46 p.m. EST)

T+plus 30 seconds. The Atlas rocket has cleared the tower at Complex 36A as it slowly ascends into the evening sky here at Cape Canaveral with a full moon as backdrop. 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.

2346 GMT (6:46 p.m. EST)

LIFTOFF! Liftoff of the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket launching a new broadcasting satellite to serve cable television viewers across America.

2345 GMT (6:45 p.m. EST)

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.

2345 GMT (6:45 p.m. EST)

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.

2344 GMT (6:44 p.m. EST)

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.

2343 GMT (6:43 p.m. EST)

T-minus 3 minutes. All systems remain "go" for liftoff of the Atlas 2AS rocket on its 28-minute mission to deliver the AMC-10 spacecraft into geosynchronous transfer orbit.

2342 GMT (6:42 p.m. EST)

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

2341 GMT (6:41 p.m. EST)

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.

2341 GMT (6:41 p.m. EST)

T-minus 5 minutes and counting! The countdown has resumed for launch of the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket, AC-165, carrying the AMC-10 communications spacecraft.

Liftoff is set for 6:46 p.m. EST from pad 36A at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

2340 GMT (6:40 p.m. EST)

Standing by to pick up the countdown in one minute.

2338 GMT (6:38 p.m. EST)

Lockheed Martin launch director Adrian Laffitte has given his "go" to resume the countdown for liftoff at 6:46 p.m. EST.

2338 GMT (6:38 p.m. EST)

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

2336 GMT (6:36 p.m. EST)

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

2336 GMT (6:36 p.m. EST)

T-minus 5 minutes and holding. The countdown has entered this final planned hold in tonight's launch operation. The pause has been shortened from 15 to 5 minutes due to the earlier delays caused by the pneumatic system valve.

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 targeted for 6:46 p.m. EST from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

2331 GMT (6:31 p.m. EST)

The AMC-10 spacecraft is confirmed on internal power for launch.

2331 GMT (6:31 p.m. EST)

Now 15 minutes from launch. Weather conditions "go" and there are no technical problems currently being reported by Lockheed Martin.

2329 GMT (6:29 p.m. EST)

The AMC-10 cable television broadcasting satellite payload atop the Atlas 2AS rocket is preparing to switch to its internal batteries for launch.

2326 GMT (6:26 p.m. EST)

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 6:46 p.m. EST.

2324 GMT (6:24 p.m. EST)

The Centaur liquid hydrogen tank is now reported at flight level. Centaur upper stage and Atlas first stage 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.

2319 GMT (6:19 p.m. EST)

The Atlas first stage liquid oxygen tank is now reported at flight level.

2317 GMT (6:17 p.m. EST)

The Flight Termination System test has been completed.

2316 GMT (6:16 p.m. EST)

Now 30 minutes away from liftoff of the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Centaur hydrogen tank is now 97 percent full, heading to flight level.

2312 GMT (6:12 p.m. EST)

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

Also, the Centaur hydrogen tank has reached the 80 percent mark.

2309 GMT (6:09 p.m. EST)

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.

2306 GMT (6:06 p.m. EST)

The hydrogen tank is now half full.

2302 GMT (6:02 p.m. EST)

The liquid oxygen tank in the Atlas first stage has reached the 70 percent mark. The Centaur hydrogen tank is 20 percent full.

2256 GMT (5:56 p.m. EST)

The Atlas liquid oxygen tank is half full as fueling operations continue for tonight's 6:46 p.m. EST liftoff.

Also, 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 AMC-10 spacecraft into the targeted geosynchronous transfer orbit this evening.

Today's 70-minute launch window is officially open. Liftoff is scheduled for 6:46 p.m. EST -- 20 minutes before this launch opportunity will close for today.

2250 GMT (5:50 p.m. EST)

The Atlas liquid oxygen tank is now 20 percent full.

The shiny exterior of the first stage can be seen turning white with ice from our viewing position a couple miles away from pad 36A.

2246 GMT (5:46 p.m. EST)

The rescheduled launch of the Atlas 2AS rocket and AMC-10 spacecraft is now 60 minutes away at 6:46 p.m. EST.

2239 GMT (5:39 p.m. EST)

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

2236 GMT (5:36 p.m. EST)

T-minus 65 minutes and counting! The countdown has resumed for a planned launch time of 6:46 p.m. EST. That will give the launch team a 20-minute window to get the rocket airborne or else scrub for the day.

The hold at T-minus 5 minutes has been shortened from 15 to 5 minutes in duration, allowing the launch to occur at 6:46 vs. 6:56 p.m.

2235 GMT (5:35 p.m. EST)

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.

2233 GMT (5:33 p.m. EST)

Lockheed Martin is preparing to pick up the countdown. The pneumatic system is slowly charging. So clocks will resume ticking to preserve the opportunity to launch tonight.

2232 GMT (5:32 p.m. EST)

The team has completed its work at the pad and departed the area. The controllers in the blockhouse will now see if the pneumatic system can be succcessfully charged.

2228 GMT (5:28 p.m. EST)

The launch team has deleted 10 minutes from the planned 15 minute hold at T-minus 5 minutes. That essentially buys the team 10 additional minutes to work this helium bottle charging problem and get the countdown underway again for liftoff by the close of today's window at 7:06 p.m. EST.

2217 GMT (5:17 p.m. EST)

The troubleshooting team is now heading into pad 36A.

Once the countdown resumes from T-minus 65 minutes, the fueling will get underway again. A planned hold lasting 15 minutes is scheduled at T-minus 5 minutes. So we would be 80 minutes from liftoff. Doing the math, over half of today's launch window has been used up while this unplanned hold continues.

2210 GMT (5:10 p.m. EST)

There has been no further update from Lockheed Martin. Clocks continue to hold.

2206 GMT (5:06 p.m. EST)

The countdown has been holding for a half-hour at T-minus 65 minutes in this unplanned pause.

2205 GMT (5:05 p.m. EST)

The launch team is working with safety officials to prepare for sending a crew into the pad to physically troubleshoot.

2200 GMT (5:00 p.m. EST)

Launch remains on hold while the valve problem is worked. After watching the charging for a few minutes, It appears the problem hasn't been successfully fixed.

2149 GMT (4:49 p.m. EST)

After doing a venting to ease the pressure on the stubborn closed valve, the bottles are now charging again! The launch team is cautiously watching the situation before declaring succcess. Countdown clocks remain holding at T-minus 65 minutes.

2141 GMT (4:41 p.m. EST)

To recap, the pre-launch charging of the Atlas first stage pneumatic bottles was interrupted due to a problem. The bottles were charging earlier but stopped apparently due to a closed valve. Attempts to reopen that valve have been unsuccessful. Engineers are working through options to correct the problem in hopes of resuming the countdown for liftoff before the end of today's launch opportunity at 7:06 p.m. EST.

Read our earlier status center coverage.

Flight data file
Vehicle: Atlas 2AS (AC-165)
Payload: AMC-10
Launch date: Feb. 5, 2004
Launch window: 5:56 to 7:06 p.m. EST (2256-0006 GMT)
Launch site: Complex 36A, Cape Canaveral, Florida
Satellite broadcast: AMC-9, Transponder 22, C-band

Pre-launch briefing
Launch preview - Our story looking at this Atlas rocket launch of the AMC-10 satellite.

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

Weather forecast - The latest forecast for launch day conditions.

Launch hazard area - The restricted area during liftoff.

Ground track - See the trajectory the rocket will follow during its flight.

Orbit insertion - Illustration of AMC-10's trek to geostationary orbit.

Atlas 2AS vehicle data - Description of rocket being used in this launch.

Atlas directory - See our coverage of previous Atlas rocket flights.


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