BY JUSTIN RAY

Follow the countdown and launch of the Lockheed Martin Atlas 3B rocket with the AsiaSat 4 communications satellite. Reload this page for the very latest on the mission.

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SATURDAY, APRIL 12, 2003

An Asian telecommunications spacecraft that will cover over 40 countries from the Middle East to New Zealand was successfully launched Friday night by a Lockheed Martin Atlas 3B rocket from Cape Canaveral. Read our full launch story.

0245 GMT (10:45 p.m. EDT Fri.)

Controllers have established contact with the AsiaSat 4 spacecraft, confirming the satellite is operating following its deployment into orbit tonight. The first signals were received at the Fort Stanley Telemetry, Tracking and Control Station in Hong Kong.

"We are extremely proud to have built and helped launch AsiaSat 4 for Asia Satellite Telecommunications," said Dave Ryan, president of Boeing Satellite Systems. "This satellite will enable them to provide higher power coverage with excellent elevation angles across the expanded areas of Australasia and the Greater China region."

AsiaSat 4, designed by Boeing Satellite Systems to provide a minimum of 15 years of service, will be located at 122 degrees East and will provide television distribution and telecommunications service throughout Asia, the Middle East, Australasia, and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

0149 GMT (9:49 p.m. EDT Fri.)

A correction has been made to the update for T+17 minutes. The parking orbit was 1,837.5 kilometers at apogee and 166.6 kilometers at perigee -- not miles.

0125 GMT (9:25 p.m. EDT Fri.)

Lockheed Martin has declared its 64th straight successful flight of an Atlas rocket. The AsiaSat 4 spacecraft was deployed into an orbit with a high point of 47,920 km, vastly higher than the contractual minimum apogee was 34,616 km. The perigee reached is 201 km and the inclination is 26.99 degrees, both parameters a bit better than required.

0117 GMT (9:17 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 30 minutes, 56 seconds. SPACECRAFT SEPARATION! The AsiaSat 4 telecommunications satellite has been released into space following launch by the third Lockheed Martin Atlas 3 rocket.

0117 GMT (9:17 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 30 minutes, 30 seconds. Spinup of the Centaur upper stage has started in advance of spacecraft deployment.

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

T+plus 28 minutes. The orbit achieved following the second Centaur burn is well within targets, Lockheed Martin says.

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

T+plus 27 minutes. A depletion of liquid oxygen triggered the engine shut down as expected. This was a minimum residual shutdown flight, meaning the Centaur fired until it was out of propellant to put AsiaSat in the best orbit possible.

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

T+plus 27 minutes, 47 seconds. The Centaur engine has shut down, completing the powered phase of tonight's launch. Coming up on deployment of the AsiaSat 4 satellite at about T+plus 30 minutes, 54 seconds.

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

T+plus 26 minutes, 30 seconds. Just over a minute left to go in this burn. No problems reported. Engine is performing smoothly, vehicle rates are normal.

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

T+plus 25 minutes, 30 seconds. Centaur engine operating parameters reported normal.

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

T+plus 25 minutes. The engine start up signatures looked good.

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

T+plus 24 minutes, 47 seconds. The Pratt & Whitney RL-10 engine of the Centaur upper stage has reignited for the burn to boost the AsiaSat 4 cargo from the current parking orbit to a highly elliptical geosynchronous transfer orbit around Earth.

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

T+plus 23 minutes. The second burn of the Centaur is planned to occur at about T+plus 24 minutes, 45 seconds for a two-minute, 59-second burn that will accelerate AsiaSat 4 into its geosynchronous transfer orbit.

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

T+plus 22 minutes. Good data being received from the Centaur via NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System.

0107 GMT (9:07 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 20 minutes, 30 seconds. The vehicle continues in its quiet coast through space. A check of vehicle systems indicates no problems.

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

T+plus 17 minutes. The parking orbit achieved is right on target with an apogee of 1,837.5 km and perigee of 166.6 km.

0103 GMT (9:03 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 16 minutes. Normal engine shutdown signatures were seen at MECO 1.

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

T+plus 15 minutes, 32 seconds. MECO 1. The Centaur main engine has shut down as planned following the first of two planned firings to deliver the AsiaSat 4 spacecraft into orbit. The vehicle will coast for about 9 minutes before the Centaur reignites.

0101 GMT (9:01 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 14 minutes, 30 seconds. Velocity is up to 15,800 mph.

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

T+plus 13 minutes. Just under three minutes remaining in this first burn of the single-engine Centaur upper stage. No problems being reported with the vehicle. System parameters all look normal, Lockheed Martin says.

0059 GMT (8:59 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 12 minutes, 11 seconds. Data is being received again. Lockheed Martin says the RL-10 engine is firing as planned.

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

T+plus 11 minutes, 30 seconds. There has been a loss of signal in the telemetry receiving lab. But officials report the rocket is on the proper Range track.

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

T+plus 10 minutes, 15 seconds. Downrange distance 1065 miles, velocity 11,700 mph.

0056 GMT (8:56 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 9 minutes, 15 seconds. Altitude 202 miles, downrange distance 897 miles, velocity 11,069 mph.

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

T+plus 8 minutes, 10 seconds. RL-10 engine parameters reported normal. Altitude 198 miles, downrange distance 743 miles, velocity 10,300 mph.

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

T+plus 7 minutes, 40 seconds. Altitude 190 miles, downrange distance 622 miles, velocity 10,000 mph.

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

T+plus 6 minutes, 15 seconds. The Centaur has rolled to an attitude for communications with NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System.

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

T+plus 5 minutes. The vehicle remains on the proper course as Centaur continues to fire.

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

T+plus 4 minutes. Good performance reported on the upper stage engine.

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

T+plus 3 minutes, 45 seconds. The payload fairing has been jettisoned. It is no longer needed to protect the AsiaSat 4 satellite during the launch. Altitude 90 miles, downrange distance 197 miles, velocity 8,800 mph.

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

T+plus 3 minutes, 20 seconds. The Centaur upper stage's RL-10 engine has ignited! The nozzle extended as planned prior to start.

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

T+plus 3 minutes, 11 seconds. The engine has shut down as planned and the spent Atlas has been jettisoned.

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

T+plus 2 minutes, 50 seconds. The RD-180 engine is throttling down to 47 percent of thrust in preparation for shutdown.

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

T+plus 2 minutes. A good flight so far.

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

T+plus 90 seconds. Vehicle rates reported normal. The main engine performing as expected.

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

T+plus 69 seconds. The RD-180 engine is throttling up to 87 percent of thrust after passing through the dense lower atmosphere.

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

T+plus 35 seconds. Pitch and roll programs underway as the vehicle heads eastward away from Florida. The RD-180 engine will be throttling down to 67 percent ease the vehicle through maximum dynamic pressure.

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

T+plus 10 seconds. The RD-180 engine is throttling up to 92 percent.

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

LIFTOFF! Liftoff of Atlas 3 and AsiaSat 4 -- a high-powered telecommunications spacecraft to serve over 40 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. And the rocket has cleared the tower!

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

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

In the next few seconds the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen vent valves will be locked and the flight data recorders will be readied.

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

T-minus 1 minute. The RD-180 engine is being verified ready for flight and final status checks are underway. Engine ignition will occur at T-minus 2.73 seconds and the Russian-made powerplant will build up to 74 percent thrust. A check of eight engine parameters will performed by the rocket's onboard computer a half-second before liftoff. If no problems are detected, the rocket will be allowed to launch at T-0.

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

0045 GMT (8:45 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 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.

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

T-minus 3 minutes. RP-1 kerosene fuel is now flowing into the RD-180 engine, conditioning the powerplant for ignition.

And the water system is being readied for activation at launch pad 36B. Water will flood the pad to suppress the sound produced at liftoff and protect the ground support systems.

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

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

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

T-minus 5 minutes and counting! The countdown has resumed for this evening's launch of the Lockheed Martin Atlas 3B rocket. Liftoff is set for 8:47 p.m. EDT from pad 36B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The guidance profile has been verified.

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

Standing by to pick up the countdown.

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

Lockheed Martin Launch Director Adrian Laffitte has given his "go" to resume the countdown pending final verification of the new guidance profile loaded into the rocket a short time ago. That profile update was generated based on the latest upper level wind conditions.

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

Another readiness check of the launch team has been taken by launch conductor Ed Christiansen from his console in the Complex 36 Blockhouse. No technical problems were reported. And as part of the poll, the Range issued its final clear to launch.

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

A new guidance profile program based on the latest upper level wind conditions has been loaded into the rocket's navigation computer.

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

The launch team has been told that another readiness poll will be performed at 8:39 p.m.

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

NEW LAUNCH TIME. Liftoff has slipped another 10 minutes -- to 8:47 p.m. EDT -- due to winds aloft.

0029 GMT (8:29 p.m. EDT)

Officials have just announced that upper level winds are "no go" for continuing the countdown.

0029 GMT (8:29 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. Standing by for word from the management team.

0028 GMT (8:28 p.m. EDT)

The launch team reports all systems are now "go" for flight. The fuel-fill sequence for the RD-180 main engine has started.

0022 GMT (8:22 p.m. EDT)

The anomaly resolution team reports the CCLS error message issue is understood and not a constraint to launching tonight. Liftoff is still targeted for 8:37 p.m. EDT.

0017 GMT (8:17 p.m. EDT)

The anomaly resolution team believes that the suspect measurement of current from a component is normal. This has been under discussion over the past few minutes. But some functional checks will be made at this time to verify there are no problems.

0014 GMT (8:14 p.m. EDT)

A Lockheed Martin spokesman says the team working the CCLS ground computer system will be briefing managers shortly to bring this issue to resolution.

0012 GMT (8:12 p.m. EDT)

Tonight's COLA extends from 8:27:37 to 8:36:46 p.m. EDT. 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.

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

HOLD EXTENDED. Liftoff has been delayed to 8:37 p.m. EDT -- on the other side of a Collision Avoidance period cutout of the launch window. Lockheed Martin says efforts to resolve the problem with the CCLS computer system continues, as well as discussions about a fluctuating measurement on currents from a component.

0003 GMT (8:03 p.m. EDT)

The countdown clocks remain holding at T-minus 5 minutes. The new target liftoff time is 8:23 p.m. EDT. Tonight's available launch window extends to 9:20 p.m.

0001 GMT (8:01 p.m. EDT)

The launch team is also examining some fluctuations on a current level measurement.

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

This 15-minute delay was ordered to give engineers some extra time to assess a ground computer system error message.

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

We're awaiting word from Lockheed Martin on the reason for this 15-minute delay.

2353 GMT (7:53 p.m. EDT)

HOLD EXTENDED. Launch director Adrian Laffitte has instructed the launch team to delay liftoff to 8:23 p.m. EDT.

2349 GMT (7:49 p.m. EDT)

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

2348 GMT (7:48 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. During this time, 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 is targeted for 8:08 p.m. EDT.

An ILS spokesperson says that earlier inertial navigation unit error message situation is not a constraint to launch.

2343 GMT (7:43 p.m. EDT)

The AsiaSat 4 spacecraft atop the Atlas 3 rocket is switching to its internal batteries for launch.

2338 GMT (7:38 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 15 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 8:08 p.m. EDT.

Read our earlier status center coverage.

Flight data file
Vehicle: Atlas 3B (AC-205)
Payload: AsiaSat 4
Launch date: April 11, 2003
Launch window: 8:08 to 9:20 p.m. EDT (0008-0120 GMT on 12th)
Launch site: Complex 36B, Cape Canaveral, Florida
Satellite broadcast: Galaxy 3, Transponder 1, C-band

Pre-launch briefing
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 AsiaSat 4's trek to geostationary orbit.

AsiaSat 4 - Description of communications satellite cargo.

Atlas 3B vehicle data - Description of rocket being used in this launch.

The RD-180 - Facts and figures about the Russian-built engine to power Atlas 3 and 5.

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


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