Spaceflight Now: Atlas launch report
Photo Gallery:
Atlas and Terra ready to fly

Posted: December 15, 1999

Pictures tell the story of how a Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket and NASA's Terra spacecraft were joined together on the launch pad.

Now arriving
Workers unload the Atlas booster stage from a U.S. Air Force C-5A cargo jet at Vandenberg Air Force Base in September 1997. The rocket from flown to California from Lockheed Martin in Denver.
The waiting room
Atlas and the Centaur upper stage, seen covered in blue material, wait in a hangar at Vandenberg before being moved to the launch pad for stacking.
The power
The three Rocketdyne MA-5A liquid-propellant engines power the Atlas booster stage during launch. This Atlas rocket to launch Terra has a tailnumber of AC-141.
Raising the rocket
Atlas arrives at the newly refurbished Space Launch Complex-3 East at Vandenberg. Workers hoist the rocket into the launch mount to begin vehicle stacking in late September 1997.
Atlas stack
Adding Centaur
For the first time in history a Centaur upper stage is readied for launch from Vandenberg. The powerful twin-engine stage is hoisted atop the Atlas stage at SLC-3E.
Finishing touches
Engineers conduct their final tests and checks on Terra in AstroTech's satellite processing facility at Vandenberg last month. Sitting next to Terra is the protective payload fairing.
Here comes the passenger
Terra, already enclosed in the payload fairing, is raised up the tower at SLC-3E for mating with Centaur last month. The fairing is 3-feet longer than the standard Atlas nose cone because of Terra's size.
Flight data file
Vehicle: Atlas 2AS
Payload: Terra
Launch date: Dec. 16, 1999
Launch window: 1833-1858 GMT (1333-1358 EST)
Launch site: SLC-3E, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Pre-launch briefing
Atlas vehicle data - Overview of the rocket that will launch Terra into space.

Terra spacecraft - Facts and information about NASA's Terra satellite.

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

Terra's mission - A NASA release detailing the objectives and science goals of Terra.

Explore the Net
International Launch Services - Lockheed Martin-led consortium which globally markets the U.S. Atlas and Russian Proton rockets.

Lockheed Martin Astronautics - U.S. company which builds and launches the Atlas family of rockets.

Terra - NASA's flagship mission for the Earth observing system.

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