First Greek satellite launch performed by Atlas 5 rocket
BY JUSTIN RAY
SPACEFLIGHT NOW

Posted: May 14, 2003

Tuesday's rocket launch from Cape Canaveral wasn't your every day satellite delivery mission. Sure, it had that unmistakable crackling roar and golden tail of fire. But the successful second flight of Lockheed Martin's Atlas 5 rocket began with a history-making accomplishment and ended with Greece achieving its first presence in space.

 
The Atlas 5 rocket launches from Complex 41 on Tuesday. Photo: Lockheed Martin
 
Nine-and-a-half hours before liftoff, the Atlas 5 was transported from its assembly building to the pad at Complex 41 aboard a 1.4-million pound mobile launching platform. The feat of putting a massive rocket on the pad and launching it on the same day had never been seen in the U.S.

After a short delay in the final minutes of the countdown to clear boats from the restricted waters off the coast, the Russian-made RD-180 main engine surged to life and propelled the 191-foot tall, 737,500-pound rocket skyward at 6:10 p.m. EDT (2210 GMT).

About 31 minutes later, the Hellas Sat communications spacecraft was deployed into the targeted supersynchronous transfer orbit that stretches from 200 miles at its closest point to Earth to over 53,000 miles at its farthest.

Greece and partner Cyprus have now fulfilled the goal of launching their first satellite after 10 years of work.

"Today, we are getting the capability of covering the telecommunications requirements of Greece and, of course, Cyprus, and getting into the club of 25 countries that are already in this family," said Manolis Stratakis, Greece's deputy minister of transportation and communications.

 
The rocket maneuvers to the proper heading for the flight downrange. Photo: Justin Ray/Spaceflight Now
 
"This technology will help in exploring telemedicine, e-commerce and a number of other areas, help develop rural areas and cover the Greek islands and mountainous areas with telecommunications that today they do not have.

"We would like to take that as a stepping stone for future development and go further ahead," Stratakis continued.

"We count on this launch as a step forward in the development of our company, our country and the whole southeastern Europe area," added George Argyropoulos, chairman and CEO of Hellas Sat S.A. of Athens, Greece.

The Hellas Sat project cost $178 million, including the satellite, Atlas rocket and insurance.

Built in Europe by Astrium, the 7,165-pound Hellas Sat spacecraft is based on the Eurostar E2000+ satellite model. It carries 30 Ku-band transponders, which will be used by two fixed beams to serve Europe and two steerable beams for Africa and the Middle East.


An artist's concept of Hellas Sat deployed in space. Credit: Astrium
 
"This satellite will be the most powerful in Europe," said Christodoulos Protopapas, CEO of Hellas Sat Consortium Ltd. of Nicosia, Cyprus. "I mean it is the most powerful satellite because you can receive digital TV with a 60 centimeter dish from London to Madrid to Cyprus."

Over the next 10 days, the satellite will fire an onboard engine to circularize its orbit at 22,300 miles above the equator. Controllers will position Hellas Sat at 39 degrees East longitude where it will match Earth's rotation and appear parked in the sky.

Hellas Sat will be used for video transmissions, direct-to-home television broadcasting, high-speed Internet connections and two-way broadband services.

The Hellas Sat operators also look forward to the satellite being used extensively during the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.

 
The cloud in formed in the sky by the soaring Atlas 5. Photo: Justin Ray/Spaceflight Now
 
For the Lockheed Martin Atlas team, Tuesday's flight of the AV-002 rocket marked the 65th consecutive successful mission by the American launcher family.

"The world's most reliable launch system has proven itself one more time," Mark Albrecht, president of Atlas marketer International Launch Services, said after the mission. "Congratulations to the Atlas team...you guys continue to make this look easy and we know it's hard."

Since the inaugural Atlas 5 launch last August, engineers have been working to reduce the amount of time the next-generation rocket spends on the pad.

The Atlas 5 rocket, which was developed as part of the U.S. Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program, uses a "clean pad" concept whereby the rocket stages and satellite cargo are assembled together in the Vertical Integration Facility atop a mobile platform. The completed rocket is then rolled to the pad, fueled and launched.

Last summer, the rocket was rolled out 33 hours before its maiden liftoff. But Lockheed Martin had the eventual goal of shrinking that time.


The second Atlas 5 rocket rolls to the pad. Photo: Justin Ray/Spaceflight Now
 
With the experience gained during the first launch and a series of dress rehearsals, the team was able to compress its countdown procedures into a half-day of work.

"We're really excited because of the fact that on our second Atlas 5, we were already able to achieve the goal that we established for ourselves to be able to roll and launch on the same day," said Adrian Laffitte, Lockheed Martin's director of Atlas operations at the Cape.

Other rockets in the world use assembly buildings and then roll to the pad. But Atlas officials are quick to point out that those other boosters spend more time on the pad.

The next Atlas launch is scheduled for the morning of July 17 from Cape Canaveral. The third Atlas 5 rocket will carry the Rainbow direct-to-home TV broadcasting satellite. The flight will introduce the Atlas 5's 500 series, which features a much larger nose cone that is built by the Swiss company Contraves, and new strap-on solid rocket boosters made by Aerojet.

Spaceflight Now Plus
Video coverage for subscribers only:
   VIDEO: TUESDAY'S ROLLOUT OF ATLAS 5 ROCKET TO THE PAD QT
   VIDEO: SHORT VERSION OF ATLAS 5 LAUNCH MOVIE QT
   VIDEO: LONGER VERSION OF ATLAS 5 LAUNCHING HELLAS SAT QT
   VIDEO: OUR LAUNCH FOOTAGE FROM THE CAPE PRESS SITE QT
   VIDEO: VAPOR CLOUD APPEARS IN THE SKY BEHIND ROCKET QT
   VIDEO: POST-LAUNCH SPEECHES DECLARE MISSION SUCCESS QT

   VIDEO: MONDAY'S ROLLOUT OF ATLAS 5 ROCKET TO THE PAD QT
   VIDEO: A PREVIEW OF THE ATLAS 5 LAUNCHING HELLAS SAT QT
   AUDIO: 54-MINUTE PRE-LAUNCH NEWS CONFERENCE QT
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Flight data file
Vehicle: Atlas 5 (AV-002)
Payload: Hellas Sat
Launch date: May 13, 2003
Launch window: 5:57-6:31 p.m. EDT (2157-2231 GMT)
Launch site: Complex 41, Cape Canaveral AFS, Florida
Satellite broadcast: Telstar 4, Transponder 11, C-band

Pre-launch briefing
Mission preview - Our story looking at this second Atlas 5 launch.

Weather forecast - The latest forecast for launch day conditions.

Launch hazard area - A map of the restricted area during liftoff.

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

Orbit insertion - Illustration of Hellas Sat's trek to geostationary orbit.

The rocket - Technical story of the new Atlas 5 rocket family.

Hellas Sat - Learn more about the satellite cargo for this Atlas 5 launch.

Complex 41 - A tour of the Atlas 5 launch site and description of the "clean pad" concept.

Inaugural Atlas 5 - Our coverage of the maiden Atlas 5 flight.

Video coverage - A comprehensive collection of Atlas 5 video clips and launch pad panoramas.

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


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