The Athena rocket
Posted: September 19, 2001

File image of Athena 1 rocket on the launch pad. Photo: Lockheed Martin
Developed out of the experience base of Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company;s Missiles & Space and Astronautics operations, the Athena program is backed by a strong hertiage of over 40 years of successful space launch vehicle and missile system experience. Lockheed Martin has launched more than 1,100 vehicles, produced over 2,900 missile systems with six generations of highly reliable fleet ballistic missiles (Polaris, Poseidon and Trident) and has established government range interfaces. Athena is a core component of the Lockheed Martin launch vehicle family which also includes the Titan IV, Titan II, MSLS, Atlas and Proton vehicles. The Athena is available in two versions, Athena I and Athena II.

The Athena program was begun in January 1993. Specific development milestones include successful static firings of the Castor 120 rocket motor in April 1992 and March 1993, Model 92 fairing separation test in May 1994, successful static firing of the OrbusŪ rocket motors in June 1994, the Pathfinder exercise to verify assembly and procedures in July 1994, an integration test on the Demonstration Launch Vehicle (DLV) in August 1994, and the DLV launch in August 1995. The first operational mission of the Athena, an Athena I, successfully launched the NASA Lewis satellite into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB), Calif., on Aug. 22, 1997. The first Athena II was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral Air Station (CCAS), Fla., on Jan. 6, 1998, sending NASA's Lunar Prospector spacecraft on its mission to study the moon. An Athena I also successfully launched the Republic of China's ROCSAT-1 satellite from CCAS on Jan. 26, 1999. An Athena II launched the IKONOS 1 satellite from VAFB for Space Imaging on April 27, 1999. The most recent Athena launch was Sept. 24, 1999, carrying the IKONOS satelltie for Space Imaging.

Payload Capability
Athena I: Up to 1,750 lb (794 kg)
Athena II: Up to 4,350 lb (1896 kg)

Launch Sites
The Athena is launched from both coasts of the United States to achieve both low and high inclination orbits.

East Coast Site -- Spaceport Florida Authority's Launch Complex 46 (LC-46) at CCAFS.

West Coast Site -- Alaska Aerospace Development Corporation's Kodiak Island Launch Complex. The first orbital flight from Kodiak is scheduled in 2001 with NASA's Kodiak Star mision carried on an Athena I.

Castor 120 Motor
-Athena I First Stage
-Athena II First & Second Stage
-Composite case; blowdown cold gas-powered hydraulic thrust vector control (TVC) actuators
-Length: 347 in.
-Diameter: 93 in.
-Engine Thrust: 435,000 lb
-Propellant: Class 1.3 Hydroxyl- terminated polybutadiene (HTPB-a polymer) propellant
-Contractor: Thiokol

Orbus 21D
-Athena I Second Stage
-Athena II Third Stage
-Composite case; carbon phenolic nozzle; electromechanical TVC actuators
-Length: 124 in.
-Diameter: 92 in.
-Engine Thrust: 43,723 lb
-Propellants: Class 1.3 HTPB Solid
-Contractor: Pratt & Whitney Space Propulsion Operations, Chemical Systems Division

Orbit Adjust Module
The OAM houses the attitude control system and avionics subsystem (guidance and navigation, batteries, telemetry transmitters, command and destruct receivers and antennas) that is common to Athena I and Athena II. The monopropellant hydrazine fuel (a liquid) attitude control system performs orbital injection corrections, roll control, velocity trim and orbit circularizing maneuvers. The OAM is located directly beneath the payload to perform the final orbit injection burns and any needed to put the satellite in the precise orbit. The OAM weighs 819 pounds dry, and can carry a maximum 960 pounds of hydrazine. After payload separation, the OAM performs a contamination and collision avoidance maneuver, distancing itself from the payload and burning any remaining fuel to depletion.

Attitude Control System
The attitude control system, provided by Primex Technologies, uses off-the-shelf propulsion components. The propellant load is tailored to the specific mission.

Payload Fairing Envelope
The payload fairing envelope allows satellite volume growth; makes initial design tasks easier and less costly; and allows designers to focus on performance, higher reliability, and lower cost.

Checkout & Launch Control Van
All checkout and launch-control equipment is housed in a Launch Vehicle Control Van - a 40-foot vehicle in proximity to the launch pad. The van contains operator positions for the launch director, spacecraft director and the Air Force Range Safety representative. The van is connected to the launch facility through fiber-optic and copper wires, and is the point of control during launch countdown.

Team Members

  • Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company - Astronautics Operations, Denver, Colo. - Production Operations (Lot 2 and on), Business Development, Business Operations, Mission Management, Engineering, Launch Operations
  • Litton, Salt Lake City, Utah - Inertial Measurement Unit
  • Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company - Missiles & Space Operations, Santa Cruz, Calif. - Ordnance Manufacturing
  • Boeing Primex Technologies, Redmond, Wash. - Attitude Control Systems
  • ATK Thiokol Propulsion, Salt Lake City, Utah - Castor 120 Rocket Motors
  • Pratt & Whitney Space Propulsion Operations, Chemical Systems Division, San Jose, Calif. - Orbus 21D Rocket Motors
Flight data file
Vehicle: Athena 1
Payload: Kodiak Star
Launch date: Sept. 21, 2001
Launch window: 9-11 p.m. EDT (0100-0300 GMT on 22nd)
Launch site: Kodiak Launch Complex, Alaska
Satellite broadcast: GE-2, Trans. 9, C-band

Pre-launch briefing
Kodiak Star - A complete mission overview with details on the payloads and new launch site.

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.