AC-159 launch timeline
Posted: September 14, 2002

T-00:02.4 Engine Start
Engine start Atlas booster and sustainer engines are ignited and undergo checkout prior to liftoff.
T+00:00 Launch
Liftoff The two ground-lit solid rocket boosters are ignited as the Atlas 2AS vehicle, designated AC-159, lifts off and begins a vertical rise away from launch pad 36A at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
T+00:08 Roll Program
Roll During vertical ascent, Atlas begins a seven-second roll maneuver to align itself with proper flight azimuth. Following the roll, the Centaur inertial guidance system controls pitch and yaw programs.
T+00:59 Air-lit SRB Ignition
Air-lit The remaining two solid rocket boosters strapped to the Atlas are ignited once onboard computer software determines the two ground-start SRBs have burned out, about two seconds earlier.
T+01:16 Jettison Ground-Lit SRBs
Ground-lit sep The two spent solid rocket boosters that were ignited on the ground are jettisoned to fall into the Atlantic Ocean.
T+01:56 Jettison Air-Lit SRBs
Air-let sep Computer software will determine the air-start solid rocket boosters have burned all their propellant and should be jettisoned from the Atlas vehicle. The two SRBs will fall into the Atlantic Ocean.
T+02:43 Booster Engine Cutoff
BECO BECO occurs when axial acceleration of 5.0 g is obtained on the rocket. Sustainer engine provides the continued boost toward orbit for the Atlas rocket.
T+02:47 Jettison Booster Package
Booster sep The bottom engine structure with the two booster engine nozzles is separated from the Atlas vehicle.
T+03:22 Jettison Payload Fairing
Fairing separation The 14-foot diameter aluminum payload fairing that protected the Hispasat 1D spacecraft during launch is separated once heating levels drop to predetermined limits.
T+05:00 Sustainer Engine Cutoff
SECO SECO is commanded once minimum residual propellant is sensed inside the Atlas booster stage.
T+05:02 Atlas/Centaur Separation
Atlas separation The Atlas booster stage separates from the Centaur upper stage. Over the next few seconds, the Centaur engine liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen systems are readied for ignition.
T+05:19 Centaur Engine Start 1
MES-1 MES 1, the longer of the two Centaur firings begins to inject the upper stage and Hispasat 1D spacecraft into a low-altitude parking orbit.
T+09:47 Centaur Engine Cutoff 1
Coast MECO 1 occurs the Centaur engines are shutdown, arriving in a planned parking orbit. The vehicle begins a coast period over the mid-Atlantic before arriving at the required location in space for the second burn.
T+24:29 Centaur Engine Start 2
MES-2 MES 2 occurs over the Atlantic Ocean between the African Ivory Coast and Ascension Island before the rocket passes over the equator. The burn lasts until all the Centaur fuel is used, placing Hispasat 1D into a supergeosynchronous transfer orbit.
T+26:14 Centaur Engine Cutoff 2
MECO-2 At the point of MECO 2, the Centaur/Hispasat 1D vehicle should be in the required transfer orbit with a perigee of 90 nautical miles, apogee between 23,311 and 24,863 nautical miles, inclined between 19.8 and 21.5 degrees. Moments later, the stage begins aligning to the satellite separation attitude.
T+28:52 Spacecraft Separation
Spacecraft separation The Spanish Hispasat 1D communications satellite is released into orbit from the Centaur upper stage to complete the AC-159 launch.

Image and data source: International Launch Services and Lockheed Martin Astronautics.

Flight data file
Vehicle: Atlas 2AS (AC-159)
Payload: Hispasat 1D
Launch date: Sept. 18, 2002
Launch window: 6:04-6:42 p.m. EDT (2204-2242 GMT)
Launch site: SLC-36A, Cape Canaveral AFS, Florida
Satellite broadcast: Telstar 5, Transponder 23, C-band

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

Atlas 2AS vehicle data - Overview of the rocket to be used in this launch.

Hispasat 1D - Description of this Spanish telecommunications satellite.

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

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