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The Mission

Rocket: Atlas 2AS (Atlas/Centaur-166)
Payload: AMC-11
Date: May 19, 2004
Window: 5:52 to 8:46 p.m. EDT (2152-0046 GMT)
Site: Complex 36B, Cape Canaveral, Florida
Satellite feed: AMC-1, Transponder 23, C-band

Launch events timeline

Ground track map

Orbit insertion graphic

Launch hazard area

The Payload

The AMC-11 spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin, will relay cable television programming across the United States.

The Launcher

Lockheed Martin's Atlas 2AS rocket, equipped with four strap-on solid boosters, makes its 29th flight during the launch of AMC-11.

Atlas 2AS fact sheet

Archived Atlas coverage


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Follow the countdown and launch of the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket with the AMC-11 communications satellite. Reload this page for the very latest on the mission.

1652 GMT (12:52 p.m. EDT)

Liftoff of the Atlas 2AS rocket is just five hours away. The countdown continues to progress through its early stages at Cape Canaveral in advance of fueling operations later this afternoon.

Here is a look at some statistics, according to Lockheed Martin and its customers, for today's mission:

  • This will be the 583rd flight of an Atlas booster since 1957
  • The 172nd launch of a Centaur upper stage (including Atlas and Titan)
  • Centaur's 149th flight on Atlas
  • The 29th flight for the Atlas 2AS-model rocket with strap-on solid booster since debuting in December 1993
  • The fourth Atlas launch in 2004 and the third using the 2AS model
  • AMC-11 is the 24th satellite to be launched using the Lockheed Martin A2100 model spacecraft
  • For AMC-11 operator SES AMERICOM, this is their 10th A2100
  • This is the second of three Atlas launches for SES AMERICOM in 2004 -- following AMC-10 in February and the planned AMC-16 deployment using an Atlas 5 in December
  • If all goes well, today's launch will extend the string of consecutive successful Atlas flights to 72 dating back to 1993

1600 GMT (12:00 p.m. EDT)

The latest launch weather forecast is available here.

1530 GMT (11:30 a.m. EDT)

Activities to prepare for this day have been underway at Cape Canaveral since late March when the launch campaign commenced.

"It has been very smooth flow -- knock on wood -- and we are looking forward to a very successful count and launch," said Atlas launch director Adrian Laffitte.

The rocket arrived at Cape Canaveral on March 28 from its manufacturing plant near Denver. Assembly of the rocket stages on pad 36B began two days later, Laffitte said.

After completing initial testing, the team turned its focus to the mid-April flight of another Atlas 2AS rocket with the Japanese Superbird 6 satellite from neighboring pad 36A. Once that mission was successfully launched, attention returned to preparing this Atlas 2AS for the AMC-11 launch.

A simulated flight was performed April 23, followed by the May 4 Wet Dress Rehearsal countdown test in which the rocket was fueled to practice launch day activities.

AMC-11 was prepped, fueled and then encapsulated in the rocket's nose cone at a hangar in Titusville. The payload was delivered to the pad and attached to the rocket on May 11.

"It has been a very smooth flow, in particular considering that it has been three years since we have launched an Atlas 2AS out of complex 36B. We have been launching Atlas 3s (from there)," Laffitte said.

1302 GMT (9:02 a.m. EDT)

START COUNTDOWN. Clocks at Cape Canaveral's Launch Complex 36 are beginning to tick down for today's launch of the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket carrying the AMC-11 communications satellite. Launch is slated to occur at 5:52 p.m. EDT (2152 GMT).

Throughout the day crews at pad 36B and in the Complex 36 blockhouse will proceed through their standard countdown chores needed to ready the Atlas booster and its twin-engine Centaur upper stage for launch, as well as the ground systems and AMC-11 spacecraft.

Highlights of activities planned, in the order they are scheduled to be performed, include Centaur propulsion launch preps, powering up the rocket's flight control system, Atlas propulsion and hydraulic systems preps, launch pad umbilical tower and mobile service structure preps, performing the flight control operational test, the internal power test of Atlas-Centaur, performing a navigation test of rocket's guidance computer, starting Centaur helium purges and starting liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen system final preps.

The Integrated Launch Operations -- the final portion of the countdown in which all members of the launch team participate -- will start at 2:37 p.m. EDT (1837 GMT). Retraction of the mobile service tower from around the rocket is slated for 2:52 p.m. EDT.

Countdown clocks will enter a planned 30-minute hold at the T-minus 105 minute mark starting at 3:22 p.m. During this time the launch team will have a chance to catch up on any work that could be running behind schedule.

Fueling operations will commence at 4:06 p.m. with super-cold liquid oxygen flowing into the Centaur upper stage. Loading of liquid oxygen into the Atlas booster stage should start at 4:27 p.m. The final segment of fueling begins at 4:43 p.m. when liquid hydrogen is pumped into the Centaur. The Atlas stage was previously fueled with its supply of RP-1 kerosene propellant.

A final planned hold is scheduled at T-minus 5 minutes for 15 minutes starting at 5:32 p.m. If there are no problems standing in the way of liftoff, the countdown will resume at 5:47 p.m. for an on-time launch.

0401 GMT (12:01 a.m. EDT)

The countdown gets underway at 9:02 a.m. EDT this morning at Cape Canaveral for the launch of Lockheed Martin's Atlas 2AS rocket carrying the commercial AMC-11 cable television satellite.

"We look forward to a great launch and successful mission," said Mark Pasquale, vice president of commercial and government programs for AMC-11 satellite builder Lockheed Martin.

The liftoff remains targeted for 5:52 p.m. EDT. If problems arise, the launch could occur as late as 8:46 p.m. EDT.

Meteorologists say conditions should be well within limits for launch, although a stray rainshower could hold up liftoff for a little while.

"We will not be able to guarantee the perfect weather that we had for the last Atlas launch, but we are going to be awfully close," said launch weather officer Johnny Weems. "The weather that you have seen for the past three or four days here at the Cape is basically the weather that you are going to have (Wednesday).

"We have a pretty stiff breeze blowing off the ocean onto the Cape...Because we have that on-shore wind we do have a small risk of some light rainshowers forming over the Cape. But they should move quite rapidly inland. Any of the thunderstorms or showers that we have (Wednesday) should happen inland and pushing away from us.

"So we are only predicting less than a 10 percent chance of constraint violation."

If the launch is postponed to Thursday for some reason, Weems said the conditions will be "almost identical" to Wednesday.

Watch this page for live updates throughout the countdown and launch on this page!

TUESDAY, MAY 18, 2004
1700 GMT (1:00 p.m. EDT)

Crews are buttoning up the Atlas 2AS rocket and performing routine testing at launch pad 36B today in preparation for tomorrow's countdown and liftoff to deliver the AMC-11 cable TV broadcasting satellite into space.

"A couple of couple of hours ago we conducted our final launch readiness review. From a spacecraft point of view, vehicle, launch complex, Range -- all systems are 'go' for tomorrow," Atlas launch director Adrian Laffitte told reporters at a morning news conference in Cape Canaveral.

Air Force weather forecasters continue to predict less than a 10 percent chance of conditions violating the launch rules. See the latest forecast here.

Launch is scheduled for 5:52 p.m. EDT (2152 GMT). The available window extends two hours and 54 minutes, closing at 8:46 p.m. EDT (0046 GMT).

MONDAY, MAY 17, 2004

The latest weather forecast issued this morning has improved the prediction for Wednesday's launch attempt. There is now less than a 10 percent chance of conditions prohibiting liftoff. See the full forecast here.

0401 GMT (12:01 a.m. EDT)

Three months after its twin successfully rocketed into space, a U.S. cable TV satellite called AMC-11 is awaiting launch this week aboard the next-to-last Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS booster.

Liftoff from pad 36B at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is scheduled for 5:52 p.m. EDT (2152 GMT) Wednesday. The launch team will have nearly three hours -- until 8:46 p.m. EDT (0046 GMT) -- to get the rocket airborne or else wait until Thursday.

The early weather outlook is quite promising with a 90 percent chance of acceptable conditions for launch.

Flying in geostationary orbit 22,300 miles above the equator at 131 degrees West longitude, AMC-11 serves as a critical link for cable TV viewers across America. Dozens of television networks are transmitted up to the satellite for relay to cable companies around the U.S. that feed the programming to 80 million homes.

A sampling of the networks slated to use AMC-11 includes numerous Discovery channels, the History Channel, Lifetime Television, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, The Science Channel, Showtime, The Learning Channel, TV Land, VH-1 and The Weather Channel.

The AMC-11 craft will join its sister-satellite, AMC-10, that was launched in February aboard another Atlas 2AS rocket from the Cape. SES AMERICOM of Princeton, New Jersey operates the satellites.

"The launch of AMC-11 represents SES AMERICOM's continuous investment in and commitment to the needs of our customers, as they strive to meet the entertainment and communications demands of consumers across America," said Dean Olmstead, president and CEO of SES AMERICOM.

The 5,100-pound AMC-11 satellite was built to replace the aging Satcom C-3 spacecraft. AMC-10 entered service earlier this month, replacing the Satcom C-4 satellite to provide TV broadcasting from 135 degrees West longitude.

Providing nearly 20 percent more power than the Satcoms they are replacing, the AMC pair will offer enhanced digital programming and high-definition channels. Built by Lockheed Martin using the A2100 satellite model design, they feature 24 C-band transponders and planned service lives of 15 years.

The satellites form what SES AMERICOM calls its "HD-PRIME" broadcasting system.

"HD-PRIME features the unparalleled reliability and reach that cable programmers, operators and cable television viewers in every American television neighborhood count on every day," Olmstead said.

After more than a decade of service, the Atlas 2AS rocket era is winding down with just two flights remaining. The Atlas 2AS model, currently the least powerful version in Lockheed Martin's Atlas rocket stable, retires with the June 30 launch of a classified National Reconnaissance Office payload.

The final vehicle was unveiled at Lockheed Martin's manufacturing plant near Denver on Friday before more than 1,500 employees, guests and customers.

"Today, we celebrate the tremendous success of the Atlas program and the bright future that the Atlas 2 helped build, not just for Lockheed Martin, but for our customers and for our nation's space launch capabilities," said Jim Sponnick, Lockheed Martin's vice president of Atlas Programs. "The Atlas 2 is an incredible success story that is shared by everyone at Lockheed Martin, our teammates and suppliers, and our customers."

Plans called for the rocket to be shipped inside a massive military transport aircraft to the Cape on Sunday. It will be erected on pad 36A within a few days to begin the launch campaign.

But before that 30th and final Atlas 2AS flight, attention is placed squarely on Wednesday's penultimate liftoff.

"Our work with the Atlas 2 is far from over," Sponnick said. "The Atlas team is currently focused on ensuring mission success for an Atlas 2AS launch May 19, then our focus will turn to the launch on June 30."

The Atlas 2-series of rockets -- the 2, 2A and 2AS -- has flown 61 times with a perfect success rate. The Atlas 3-series has performed five flights, all successfully, as an evolutionary step to the next-generation Atlas 5, which has conducted three missions to date. One more Atlas 3 is slated to occur next January as Lockheed Martin transitions solely to the Atlas 5 fleet.

SUNDAY, MAY 16, 2004

Final preparations are underway for Wednesday's launch of the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket to deliver the AMC-11 cable television broadcast satellite into Earth orbit from Cape Canaveral. Liftoff is scheduled for 5:52 p.m. EDT (2152 GMT) from pad 36B.

Air Force weather forecasters are predicting favorable conditions during the evening's available launch window that runs to 8:46 p.m. EDT (0046 GMT). There is just a 10 percent chance that ground-level winds or anvil-type clouds over the launch site will pose a problem. Read the full forecast here.

We will post a complete mission preview later tonight. And watch this page for live play-by-play updates throughout the countdown and launch.

FRIDAY, APRIL 16, 2004

Blessed with perfect weather for a space shot and a smooth-as-silk countdown, a Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket blasted off Thursday night to deliver a Japanese communications satellite into a record-setting high orbit designed to economize the payload's precious fuel supply. Read our full story.

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Starting this spring when U.S. cable television viewers flip on the Discovery Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon or Showtime, they will be watching the channels via a broadcasting satellite successfully launched into space Thursday evening from Cape Canaveral. Read our full story.

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