BY JUSTIN RAY
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)
Here is a look at some statistics, according to Lockheed Martin and its customers, for today's mission:
1600 GMT (12:00 p.m. EDT)
1530 GMT (11:30 a.m. EDT)
"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)
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)
"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
"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
0401 GMT (12:01 a.m. EDT)
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
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
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2004