Spaceflight Now: Atlas launch report
Photo Gallery:
Atlas soars with Terra

Posted: December 18, 1999

After a record 27-month wait on the launch pad, a Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS launched NASA's Terra spacecraft on December 18 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

Launch day arrives
Still enclosed in the protective mobile service tower, the Atlas rocket with Terra nestled inside the payload fairing await dawn. The rocket was stacked on pad in September 1997.
Clocks ticking to liftoff
The mobile service tower was rolled away from the Atlas rocket just after sunrise at Space Launch Complex-3 East at Vandenberg Air Force Base as the countdown proceeded on scheduled.
The Atlas rocket's three Atlas Rocketdyne MA-5A liquid-propellant engines roar to life moments before T-0. The two ground-start Thiokol Castor 4A solid rocket motors then lit.
Headed out of town
Atlas begins pitch and roll maneuvers a few seconds after launch to begin the flight downrange from Vandenberg. The Atlas engines and two SRBs clearly seen doing their job.
A southern track
To achieve a polar orbit around Earth for Terra, the Atlas rocket headed nearly due south from Vandenberg. The launch site is located north of Los Angeles along California's central Pacific coastline.
Going up
Losing dead weight
After burning their solid-propellant fuel, the ground-started SRBs are jettisoned from the Atlas rocket to impact the Pacific in a predetermined area.
SRB sep
Hot launch
An infrared camera tracks the Atlas rocket during the flight downrange. The three Atlas MA-5A engines are seen still firing.
Flight data file
Vehicle: Atlas 2AS
Payload: Terra
Launch date: Dec. 18, 1999
Launch window: 1833-1858 GMT (1333-1358 EST)
Launch site: SLC-3E, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Video vault
The Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket launches with NASA's Terra spacecraft from Vandenberg AFB, Calif.
  PLAY (496k QuickTime file)

The first countdown for the launch of NASA's Terra spacecraft aboard an Atlas 2AS rocket is cutoff in the final minute.
  PLAY (103k QuickTime file)

Download QuickTime 4 software or the Real Player to view these files.

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.

Pre-launch photo gallery - Follow the rocket and satellite preparations for launch in pictures.

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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