Spaceflight Now: Atlas Launch Report

Film yields amazing views of first Atlas 3 rocket launch

Posted: August 2, 2000

PLAY entire pad 36B view. (181k, 22sec file)
PLAY tip-to-bottom view. (144k, 18sec file)
PLAY clamps releasing view. (318k, 39sec file)
PLAY view of Russian engine. (280k, 34sec file)
When the inaugural Atlas 3 rocket blasted off in May, a network of high-speed film cameras was focused on the new Lockheed Martin booster and its Russian-made engine.

We offer a few incredible views in QuickTime format on this page by clicking on the PLAY link beneath each of the four images to the right.

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Complex 36 is canvassed with cameras, each positioned to document commercial and government launches of Atlas rockets.

The 16mm film recordings, as seen here, are used by engineers in post-flight analysis to ensure there weren't any problems during the crucial moments at liftoff.

They show the RD-180 engine, built by NPO Energomash, breaking the early evening peace on May 24 as kerosene fuel and super-cold liquid oxygen combusted in the two-nozzle powerplant.

As the countdown clock reached zero, the metal clamps holding the Atlas to Earth were pulled back, releasing the half-million pound rocket straining to begin its $300 million mission to space.

In the first seconds of flight, sheets of ice covering the Atlas stage's liquid oxygen tank broke free as the rocket rumbled away from the seaside pad 36B.

Atlas 3 was successful in its debut launch, delivering the W4 spacecraft into Earth orbit for the European Telecommunications Satellite Organization.

Video vault
The inaugural Lockheed Martin Atlas 3A rocket launches from Cape Canaveral with the Eutelsat W4 satellite.
  PLAY (317k, 36sec QuickTime file)
A video camera mounted to the side of the Lockheed Martin Atlas 3A rocket shows the successful liftoff from Cape Canaveral's pad 36B.
  PLAY (775k, 1min 49sec QuickTime file)
The Atlas booster stage separates and the payload fairing is jettisoned as seen by a video camera mounted to the side of rocket.
  PLAY (366k, 52sec QuickTime file)
A camera attached to the Centaur upper stage shows the Atlas booster stage being released and ignition of the RL-10 engine.
  PLAY (534k, 1min 00sec QuickTime file)
Learn about the engines and stages of the Lockheed Martin Atlas 3A rocket that will launch the Eutelsat W4 satellite.
  PLAY (342k, 49sec QuickTime file)
Download QuickTime 4 software to view this file.

Launch briefing
Launch report - Read our story for a complete review of the first Atlas 3A launch.

Atlas 3A vehicle data - Overview of the rocket.

The RD-180 - Facts and figures about the Russian-built engine to power Atlas 3.