BY JUSTIN RAY
July 14, 2000 -- Read about the countdown and launch of the EchoStar 6 direct-to-home TV broadcasting satellite aboard a Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket. Reload this page for the very latest on the mission.
FRIDAY, JULY 14, 2000
Also check out a QuickTime movie of the launch.
0555 GMT (1:55 a.m. EDT)
The rocket delivered EchoStar 6 into a geosynchronous transfer orbit around Earth with an apogee of 38,193.835 km, significantly higher than minimum required of 32,604.033 km, and perigee of 166.676 km, slightly better than the required 166.374 km.
0551 GMT (1:51 a.m. EDT)
Ground controllers expect to establish contact with EchoStar 6 in about 15 minutes, which will confirm the craft's health following launch. In about three hours, solar array deployment is expected.
0550 GMT (1:50 a.m. EDT)
0548 GMT (1:48 a.m. EDT)
0547 GMT (1:47 a.m. EDT)
0545 GMT (1:45 a.m. EDT)
0544 GMT (1:44 a.m. EDT)
0540 GMT (1:40 a.m. EDT)
0537 GMT (1:37 a.m. EDT)
0533 GMT (1:33 a.m. EDT)
0532 GMT (1:32 a.m. EDT)
0531 GMT (1:31 a.m. EDT)
0530 GMT (1:30 a.m. EDT)
0529 GMT (1:29 a.m. EDT)
0528 GMT (1:28 a.m. EDT)
0527 GMT (1:27 a.m. EDT)
0526 GMT (1:26 a.m. EDT)
0526 GMT (1:26 a.m. EDT)
0524 GMT (1:24 a.m. EDT)
0524 GMT (1:24 a.m. EDT)
0523 GMT (1:23 a.m. EDT)
0522 GMT (1:22 a.m. EDT)
0522 GMT (1:22 a.m. EDT)
0521 GMT (1:21 a.m. EDT)
0521 GMT (1:21 a.m. EDT)
0520 GMT (1:20 a.m. EDT)
In the next few seconds the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen vent valves will be locked for flight and the flight data recorders will be readied. The engine ignition sequence will begin at T-minus 2.4 seconds.
0520 GMT (1:20 a.m. EDT)
In the past minute, the inertial navigation unit was launch enabled, liquid hydrogen tanking was secured, fuel tank pressures reported stable, the solid rocket boosters were armed and the ignition enable switch was closed.
0519 GMT (1:19 a.m. EDT)
Shortly, the rocket's inadventant separation destruct safety system will be armed, the Centaur upper stage will go to internal power and the flight termination system will be armed.
0518 GMT (1:18 a.m. EDT)
0517 GMT (1:17 a.m. EDT)
0516 GMT (1:16 a.m. EDT)
0515 GMT (1:15 a.m. EDT)
0513 GMT (1:13 a.m. EDT)
0511 GMT (1:11 a.m. EDT)
0508 GMT (1:08 a.m. EDT)
The EchoStar 6 satellite was encapsulated inside the rocket's nose cone payload fairing in the AstroTech processing facility on June 29. Transportation to the launch pad and attachment to the rocket took place on July 6.
0504 GMT (1:04 a.m. EDT)
0501 GMT (1:01 a.m. EDT)
Also, the Complex 36 Blockhouse escape tunnel doors are being sealed for launch.
0456 GMT (12:56 a.m. EDT)
0448 GMT (12:48 a.m. EDT)
0443 GMT (12:43 a.m. EDT)
0435 GMT (12:35 a.m. EDT)
0421 GMT (12:21 a.m. EDT)
The Atlas liquid oxygen tank has been filled to 98 percent and topping to flight level will start shortly. The Centaur liquid oxygen tank is now at flight level. Liquid hydrogen loading has filled 40 percent of the Centaur tank.
0412 GMT (12:12 a.m. EDT)
0410 GMT (12:10 a.m. EDT)
At launch pad 36B the Centaur upper stage liquid oxygen tank is nearly completely full as topping to flight level continues and the Atlas booster stage liquid oxygen tank is 70 percent full.
0404 GMT (12:04 a.m. EDT)
Meanwhile, Centaur liquid oxygen topping to flight level has started. As the countdown proceeds, the tank will be replenished to replace the cryogenic liquid oxygen that naturally boils away.
Also, the final alignment of the Atlas rocket's inertial navigation guidance computer has been completed, and the flight control system final preps are now beginning.
0356 GMT (11:56 p.m. EDT)
To ensure safety, loading of liquid hydrogen fuel into the rocket will be delayed until after the worker clears the pad area.
Liftoff is still targeted for 1:21 a.m. EDT, the opening of a 119-minute launch window tonight that extends to 3:20 a.m. EDT.
0352 GMT (11:52 p.m. EDT)
Fueling operations are going well tonight at Cape Canaveral, even running a bit ahead of schedule. Launch remains scheduled for 1:21 a.m. EDT (0521 GMT).
0348 GMT (11:48 p.m. EDT)
Meanwhile, the Anomaly Team has been convened to examine a pressure decay in a system at Complex 36.
0342 GMT (11:42 p.m. EDT)
0334 GMT (11:34 p.m. EDT)
The latest steering program is being loaded into the rocket's guidance computer based upon the upper level wind conditions. Also, checks of the wind damper arm and launcher pyrovent arm connecting the Atlas 2AS rocket with the launch tower has been completed.
0324 GMT (11:24 p.m. EDT)
Meanwhile, gaseous helium chilldown of the Centaur engines and pneumatic bottle charge for the stage have started.
0321 GMT (11:21 p.m. EDT)
0316 GMT (11:16 p.m. EDT)
Meanwhile, the mobile service tower has been retracted and secured for launch. Technicians are now departing the complex.
0251 GMT (10:51 p.m. EDT)
There are no problems being worked and weather conditions remain generally favorable.
0236 GMT (10:36 p.m. EDT)
At launch pad 36B, the mobile service tower is rolling back and final preps for the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen systems have been completed. Also, hazardous gas detection monitoring has started and the Range is conducting a test of the C-band beacon system, which is used to track the rocket during flight.
0221 GMT (10:21 p.m. EDT)
The launch team reported preps for the Atlas and Centaur propulsion systems are complete, as were the hydraulic preps for Atlas. Also the rocket's Inertial Navigation Unit guidance computer has completed its navigation test and final alignment for launch has started.
Also, the Air Force reports there are no collision avoidance periods, or COLAs, that would prohibit liftoff during any portion of the launch window tonight.
0206 GMT (10:06 p.m. EDT)
Countdown clocks will pause twice over the next three hours and 15 minutes in advance of launch. Built-in holds are planned at T-minus 105 for 30 minutes and at T-minus 5 minutes for 15 minutes.
At launch pad 36B, access platforms and equipment inside the mobile service tower have been stowed, and technicians are preparing to retracted the structure from around the rocket in about 15 minutes.
Over the past hour or so, the liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen system checkouts were completed and now the final system preps have started. The purges to the Centaur upper stage began and were configured on low-flow. Also the Blockhouse clocks were switched from local time to sequencer countdown and verified to be displaying the correct T-minus time. Meanwhile, Range Safety conducted a holdfire test to ensure it could stop the launch moments before liftoff if necessary.
The latest weather forecast continues to show a 70 percent chance of acceptable conditions today. Air Force Launch Weather Officer Jim Sardonia just briefed management and reported that an area of mid-level clouds drifting toward Cape Canaveral from the north could potentially violate the thick cloud rule of greater than 4,500 feet thickness. A weather reconnaissance aircraft will be dispatched during the countdown to verify if the clouds are within allowable limits for launch. Also to be watched would be anvil clouds -- the tops of thunderstorms -- moving near the launch pad. Thunderstorms are possible over the Atlantic Ocean to the east of the Cape and winds are such that anvil clouds could blow inland.
The launch time forecast is calling for a few clouds at 3,000 feet, scattered clouds at 12,000 and 25,000 feet, southwesterly winds at 10 gusting to 16 knots and isolated rainshowers off the coast.
Meanwhile, upper level wind conditions are favorable this evening. Weather balloons released over the last few hours have found very light winds. The maximum winds are 20 knots at 4,000 feet.
0030 GMT (8:30 p.m. EDT)
Over the past couple of hours, the launch team at Complex 36 have worked through propulsion launch preps for the Atlas and Centaur stages, powered up the rocket's flight control system, conducted Atlas hydraulic system and Atlas and Centaur pneumatic preps. A navigation test of the rocket's Inertial Navigation Unit and Centaur main engine ignitor checks were started.
Look ahead, the forthcoming milestone will be retraction of the mobile service tower from around the rocket at pad 36B, which is slated to begin at 10:21 p.m. EDT (0221 GMT).
THURSDAY, JULY 13, 2000
Officials told reporters at a press conference earlier this afternoon that preparations for this $250 million launch, which aims to deliver EchoStar's sixth direct-to-home TV broadcasting satellite into orbit, has gone smoothly since the rocket arrived in Florida on May 23 from the factory.
"This has been a nominal flow," said Adrian Laffitte, the director of Atlas launch operations at the Cape.
Air Force meteorologists still predict a 70 percent chance weather conditions will allow the Atlas to launch tonight during the available 119-minute window, though conditions are expected to gradually improve as the window goes on. The concerns will be cumulus clouds and thick layered clouds, which could cause triggered lightning as the rocket ascends into the sky. Rainshowers also will be watched.
Launch Weather Officer Jim Sardonia gave this forecast today:
"Warm moist southwest to west wind in the lower atmosphere accompanied an upper level disturbance will produce unstable conditions with a high probability of showers and thunderstorms forming along the east-coast sea breeze this afternoon with the threat lasting into the evening. Lightning within 5 nautical miles of SLC 36 is likely this afternoon. Conditions will improve by midnight, however residual moisture may produce a threat of lingering anvil and layered clouds during early stages of the launch window. An unusual frontal system is expected to move into central Florida on Friday further destabilizing weather conditions Friday and Saturday afternoon/evenings. The main concerns on launch day include the chance of anvil, debris, and layered clouds."
The launch time forecast is calling for clouds scattered at 2,000 and 10,000 feet and broken clouds at 25,000, visibility of 5 miles, southwesterly winds 10 to 18 knots, temperature of 77 to 79 degrees F, relative humidity of 90 percent and occasional light showers.
0401 GMT (12:01 a.m. EDT)
Liftoff is scheduled for 1:21 a.m. EDT (0521 GMT), the opening of 119-minute window extending to 3:20 a.m. EDT (0720 GMT).
The weather forecast indicates a 70 percent chance of acceptable conditions. Air Force Launch Weather Officer Jim Sardonia gave this overview on Wednesday:
"Conditions will moderate somewhat after sunset on Thursday, however residual moisture may bring thick layered clouds and some scattered light rain over CCAFS during the launch countdown and window. Another late season frontal system is now expected to move into central Florida on Friday further destabilizing the weather conditions on Friday morning and Saturday. The main concerns on launch day include the chance of Thick Layered Clouds and scattered rainshowers within 5 nautical miles of SLC 36."
The launch time forecast on Friday calls for stratocumulus clouds scattered at 2,000 feet with 3/8ths sky coverage, altostratus clouds scattered at 10,000 feet with 4/8ths sky coverage and a broken deck of cirrus clouds at 25,000 feet with 6/8ths sky coverage, visibility of 5 miles, southwesterly winds 10 to 18 knots at the pad, a temperature of 77 to 79 degrees F, relative humidity of 90 percent and a chance of scattered rainshowers in the vicinity.
If the launch is delayed for some reason to Saturday -- the backup launch opportunity on the Eastern Range -- conditions are expected to worsen with a 60 percent of good weather. The concerns will be promixity to cumulus clouds, thick layered clouds and rainshowers in the area.
Countdown clocks will start ticking at 4:31 p.m. EDT (2031 GMT) Thursday afternoon at Complex 36. Senior managers will report for duty around 9:30 p.m. EDT (0130 GMT) at the Mission Directors Center in Cape Canaveral's Industrial Area. The full launch team shall be seated in the Complex 36 Blockhouse by 10:06 p.m. EDT (0206 GMT) as the Integrated Launch Operations begin from T-minus 150 minutes and counting.
The mobile service tower enclosing the Atlas rocket at pad 36B will be retracted for launch at 10:21 p.m. EDT (0221 GMT), pending acceptable weather conditions. After a 30-minute long built-in hold at T-minus 105 minutes, the three-step process of fueling the rocket should start. Loading of super-cold liquid oxygen into the Centaur upper stage will be first at 11:35 p.m. EDT (0335 GMT). Next will be liquid oxygen tanking of the Atlas booster stage beginning at 11:56 p.m. EDT (0356 GMT), followed by liquid hydrogen fueling of the Centaur starting at 12:12 a.m. EDT (0412 GMT).
A 15-minute planned hold will occur at 1:01 a.m. EDT (0501 GMT) as the countdown reaches T-minus 5 minutes. During the pause, final readiness polls of launch team members and management will be conducted. If no problems are reported, clocks will resume ticking at 1:16 a.m. EDT (0516 GMT) for liftoff at 1:21 a.m. EDT (0521 GMT).
Spaceflight Now will provide extensive live coverage of the countdown and launch with running updates throughout the evening in our Mission Status Center. In addition, we will offer a live QuickTime streaming video broadcast starting at 12:30 a.m. EDT (0430 GMT).
The Atlas rocket sits illuminated by flood lights at pad 36B.
Flight data file
Vehicle: Atlas 2AS (AC-161)
Payload: EchoStar 6
Launch date: July 14, 2000
Launch window: 0521-0720 GMT (1:21-3:20 a.m. EDT)
Launch site: SLC-36B, Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Launch preview - Read our story for a complete preview of the EchoStar 6 launch.
Launch timeline - Chart with times and descriptions of events to occur during the launch.
Atlas 2AS vehicle data - Overview of the rocket that will launch EchoStar 6 into space.
EchoStar 6 - Description of the satellite to be launched on AC-161.
The Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral to deliver the EchoStar 6 satellite into orbit.
PLAY (314k, 34sec QuickTime file)
Watch a movie about the planned sequence of events as the Atlas 2AS rocket carries the EchoStar 6 TV satellite into orbit.
PLAY (1.0M, 2min 32sec QuickTime file)
An in-depth look at the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket and Centaur upper stage that will launch EchoStar 6.
PLAY (461k, 1min 03sec QuickTime file)
Learn more about the EchoStar 6 direct-to-home TV satellite that will expand services for DISH Network subscribers.
PLAY (515k, 46sec QuickTime file)
Download QuickTime 4 software to view this file.