BY JUSTIN RAY
Follow the preparations to the maiden launch of Lockheed Martin's Atlas 5 rocket carrying the Eutelsat Hot Bird 6 direct-to-home TV broadcasting satellite. Reload this page for the very latest on the mission.
1856 GMT (2:56 p.m. EDT)
The Atlas liquid oxygen tank is the largest tank to be filled today and will be loaded first per the schedule, followed by the liquid oxygen for the Centaur upper stage and lastly the hydrogen for the Centaur. The propellant for the first stage -- the RP-1 kerosene -- was loaded aboard the rocket yesterday after rollout to the launch pad. The kerosene is considered storable and can be loaded into the rocket ahead of time. However, the cryogenics are chilled to several hundred degrees below zero and naturally boil away. Therefore they have be loaded rather close to launch.
1850 GMT (2:50 p.m. EDT)
1835 GMT (2:35 p.m. EDT)
Launch Weather Officer Jim Sardonia just gave managers a full briefing on current conditions and the launch time forecast. All weather rules are currently "go" for launch and expected to remain that way.
Sardonia is keeping with a 70 percent chance of launching today with the continued concern with anvil clouds and coastal showers. But given the duration of the launch window -- 89 minutes -- there should be plenty of time for improvement in the weather, he said.
1815 GMT (2:15 p.m. EDT)
The crane work has been completed at the pad and it was moved away. Final securing of the complex is underway now before the pad is cleared of all workers in advance of fueling operations this afternoon.
Liftoff remains on schedule for 6:05 p.m. EDT.
1735 GMT (1:35 p.m. EDT)
Technicians have recently completed the internal battery checks and performed the C-band tracking test with the Range.
At the pre-launch news conference held a couple hours ago, Mark Albrecht, president of International Launch Services, expressed the importance riding on today's maiden flight of Atlas.
"Obviously, the launch of the first Atlas 5 tonight is of great significance to ILS because it adds incredible capability to our launch service offerings for both the government and commercial customers in terms of incredible flexibility, capability, reliability. It's a perfect complement to our Proton launch vehicle and we're very, very happy to have it join the fleet. It will give us a great new competitive edge in the marketplace.
"For Lockheed Martin, obviously this is a great day of significance. It is a continuation of the incredible heritage in space and launch, going back to the introduction of the Atlas in the 1950s. And you will remember that Atlas was the workhorse of the Mercury program, lifting John Glenn off the planet right down the road from where we are going to be launching tonight.
"This is of course a significant launch for our customer, Eutelsat. This will be, and we note with great pride, the sixth Atlas launch for Eutelsat, the fifth Atlas variant Eutelsat has flown and the third first-of-a-kind Atlas that Eutelsat has been a partner and a customer with us.
"This is a great day of significance to the United States Air Force. This represents really the culmination of years of commitment from the United States Air Force for next generation launch vehicles to meet our national security needs. This EELV program is the culmination of years of commitment ot space excellence. Assured access to space. Atlas 5 will guarantee that the United States government, the United States Air Force has assured access to space for decades in the future and it will continue space leadership in the United States.
"So this is an enormously significant day for lots and lots of people. We're very proud to be part of it."
ILS is the marketer of Atlas and Russian Proton rockets. In addition to today's Atlas 5, a Proton rocket is scheduled for blastoff at 1:15 a.m. EDT (0515 GMT) Thursday from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan carrying the EchoStar 8 spacecraft.
1620 GMT (12:20 p.m. EDT)
"We are go for launch!" said Atlas 5 launch director Adrian Laffitte at a pre-launch news conference.
Lift off remains scheduled for 6:05 p.m. EDT (2205 GMT this evening.
"The team has worked their hearts out to get where we are today." Laffitte said.
1250 GMT (8:50 a.m. EDT)
We'll post a full update following the pre-launch news conference, which is scheduled for 11 a.m. EDT.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 21, 2002
Developed as part of the government's call for an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, the rocket is Lockheed Martin's future for lofting satellite cargos into space for the next two decades.
Maiden flights always come with more drama but this launch has an extra level of intensity. The rocket industry is over saturated with more vehicles available than payloads, so a successful debut is most important for Atlas 5.
"Birthing a new rocket is always exciting," said John Karas, Lockheed Martin's vice president for Atlas 5 development. "It's more exciting than usual because so much more rests on the success of Atlas 5 in relation to the commercial market and the government market."
Countdown clocks will begin ticking at 7:45 a.m. EDT from the T-minus 9-hour, 40-minute mark as the Atlas first stage and Centaur upper stage are powered up for launch day testing and fueling operations. The flight control system final preps are slated to start at 9:45 a.m., followed by pressurization of the Centaur helium system to 3,000 psig at 10:25 a.m., and a test of the rocket's C-band tracking system with the Eastern Range at 11:25 a.m. The flight control operational test is scheduled for 11:40 a.m.
Meanwhile, Eutelsat's Hot Bird 6 communications satellite atop the rocket is scheduled to be turned on at 9:10 a.m. RF links with the spacecraft will be established around 10:15 a.m.
The early afternoon will be spent conducting internal battery checks at 12:25 p.m., starting the Centaur liquid hydrogen system final preps at 12:45 p.m. and Centaur liquid oxygen final preps at 1:25 p.m. The final alignment of the rocket's guidance computer begins at 1:55 p.m.
The countdown will enter a planned half-hour hold at T-minus 170 minutes at 2:35 p.m. The pause gives the launch team a chance to catch up on any work that might be running behind schedule or address any issues. If there are no significant problems, clocks will resume counting at 3:05 p.m. Attention will then turn to loading the rocket with super-cold cryogenic propellants, starting with liquid oxygen for the first stage at 3:40 p.m., followed by Centaur liquid oxygen around 3:53 p.m. and finally Centaur liquid hydrogen at about 4:48 p.m.
A final built-in hold for the countdown is planned at T-minus 4 minutes and should last for 10 minutes.
The available window in which to launch the rocket today extends 89 minutes from 6:05 to 7:34 p.m. EDT. If the liftoff is scrubbed for some reason, opportunities are available on Thursday from 6:04 to 7:31 p.m. EDT and Friday from 6:04 to 7:28 p.m. EDT.
A pre-launch news conference is scheduled for 11 a.m. EDT. We will update this page following the briefing with the latest developments. And we will provide complete live reports throughout the afternoon and evening until Hot Bird 6 is deployed into orbit 31-1/2 minutes after liftoff!
TUESDAY, AUGUST 20, 2002
Mike Jacobs, the Atlas 5 launch conductor, says a small team will remain in position overnight to keep tabs on weather conditions and health of the vehicle.
"We will have a 24-hour watch on weather. We have an engineering tank pressure control personnel in launch control, monitoring the Centaur tank pressures. We will also have a launch control center monitor, who basically is the interface for any problems that come up, notifications and general status. So it will be a minimum crew here at night."
If troublesome weather appears on the horizon, the engineers can increase the pressure in the rocket to make it more structurally sound, thereby allowing Atlas 5 to withstand higher winds.
Shuttle buses to transport launch team members to Complex 41 will begin at 6:35 a.m. EDT tomorrow. The countdown will start at 7:45 a.m.
2130 GMT (5:30 p.m. EDT)
2030 GMT (4:30 p.m. EDT)
1337 GMT (9:37 a.m. EDT)
Liftoff remains scheduled for 6:05 p.m. EDT (2205 GMT) Wednesday to deliver the European Hot Bird 6 TV broadcasting satellite into orbit.
Over the next hour or so, the two mobile trailers connected to the launching platform, which were part of the convoy during this morning's rollout, will be hooked up to power and communications systems at the pad. These trailers provide conditioned air to the payload and communications with the rocket during the roll and throughout the countdown. They are protected from the blast of launch by a concrete structure on the north-side of the platform.
Around noon today, the French-built Hot Bird 6 will be powered up and technicians will perform a series of RF and link checks. Then the Atlas first stage and Centaur upper stage are scheduled to be powered as a guidance system test begins.
A weather briefing for Lockheed Martin managers is expected after 2 p.m. in advance of loading RP-1 fuel, a highly-refined kerosene propellant into the first stage. A poll of the launch team to get a "go" for fueling is slated for about 3:30 p.m., with the actual tanking expected to commence around 4 p.m.
The Complex 41 hazard area around the pad will be cleared of all workers later in the afternoon so the rocket's RP-1 tank can be pressurized for a test around 5:30 p.m. After the pressure check is finished, the tank will be vented and a team will conduct an inspection before the pad is re-opened completely. Removal of the fueling nozzle, used in the loading, will be the last noteworthy event of the day around 6:30 p.m.
The vehicle, spacecraft and pad will be secured for the night. A small team of engineers will be on station round-the-clock along with meteorologists to monitor systems and any threat from the weather.
The launch countdown is scheduled to begin at 7:45 a.m. EDT tomorrow.
1318 GMT (9:18 a.m. EDT)
Sitting atop the 1.4-million pound mobile launching platform, the 191-foot tall rocket is just emerging from the doorway of Lockheed Martin's new Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Complex 41. The rollout to the pad should take around a half-hour.
For more detail on this "clean pad" concept of assembling the rocket in a building and rolling out to the open-air pad the day before launch, see our complete story.
1257 GMT (8:57 a.m. EDT)
In the meantime, the latest weather forecast has been issued. See it here.
0001 GMT (8:01 p.m. EDT Mon.)
Workers will roll the rocket from the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad Tuesday morning.
Activities for the transport start at 6 a.m. EDT when the ground crews report for duty at Complex 41. At 6:40 a.m., the mobile environmental control system for the launcher is secured and the pad's version of the system is prepared to support the rocket after rollout. At 7 a.m. the Atlas 5's pneumatic, propulsion and fuel storage tank preps are started.
A crucial weather briefing by Launch Weather Officer Jim Sardonia is slated for 8:30 a.m., providing Lockheed Martin managers with the forecast for the 33 hours the rocket will be exposed to the elements on the launch pad from rollout through liftoff.
A readiness poll will be conducted at 8:43 a.m. for a final "go" to roll. The undercarriage jacks are raised at 8:45 a.m. With no technical problems reported and acceptable weather, the mobile launcher platform should begin the 1,800-foot journey to the pad at 8:55 a.m. EDT.
The rollout is expected to take about a half-hour, followed by securing the platform to the pad and making the numerous power, communications, fuel line and other umbilical connections through mid-morning.
The other key milestone Tuesday is the scheduled loading of RP-1 kerosene fuel into the first stage starting at 3:20 p.m.
Meteorologists are calling for a 70 percent chance of good weather during Wednesday's launch window from 6:05 and 7:34 p.m. EDT. See the latest forecast and listing of the weather rules here.
Watch this page for live updates Tuesday morning during the rollout of Atlas 5! And we will provide comprehensive live reports right here throughout the countdown and launch Wednesday.
MONDAY, AUGUST 19, 2002
SUNDAY, AUGUST 18, 2002
SATURDAY, AUGUST 17, 2002
FRIDAY, AUGUST 16, 2002
THURSDAY, AUGUST 15, 2002
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 14, 2002
TUESDAY, AUGUST 13, 2002
MONDAY, AUGUST 12, 2002
FRIDAY, AUGUST 9, 2002
THURSDAY, AUGUST 1, 2002
FRIDAY, JULY 26, 2002
WEDNESDAY, JULY 17, 2002
TUESDAY, JULY 16, 2002
2045 GMT (4:45 p.m. EDT)
The Atlas first stage and Centaur liquid oxygen tanks have been completely filled, and the chilldown thermal conditioning of liquid hydrogen system is underway in preparation of pumping that super-cold fuel into the Centaur today.
TUESDAY, JULY 16, 2002
Riding atop its mobile launching platform, the rocket was transported 1,800 feet from the Vertical Integration Facility to the open-air launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Complex 41.
Once at the pad, the platform was connected to ground systems as a series of tests got underway. Workers were also expected to load RP-1 kerosene propellant into the first stage on Monday.
The loading of super-cold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen will occur this afternoon. Clocks are counting down to a simulated launch time of 4:30 p.m. EDT.
Once the countdown is completed, the cryogenics will be offloaded this evening, followed by RP-1 on Wednesday.
The rocket is scheduled to be rolled back to the Vertical Integration Facility between 2:45 and 4 p.m. EDT Wednesday to conclude the dress rehearsal.
SUNDAY, JULY 7, 2002
THURSDAY, JUNE 27, 2002
SUNDAY, MAY 19, 2002
FRIDAY, MAY 17, 2002
We'll have a full wrap-up story on this countdown dress rehearsal over the weekend.
1855 GMT (2:55 p.m. EDT)
1725 GMT (1:25 p.m. EDT)
THURSDAY, MAY 16, 2002
Officials have decided to repeat the full countdown dress rehearsal on Friday. Countdown clocks are scheduled to reach T-0 at 3 p.m. EDT.
Assuming all goes well, the rocket will be rolled back to Vertical Integration Facility around 4 p.m. on Saturday.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 15, 2002
2045 GMT (4:45 p.m. EDT)
1515 GMT (11:15 a.m. EDT)
WEDNESDAY, MAY 15, 2002
The drill essentially will run on the launch day timeline as the rocket is moved to the pad around 4 a.m. EDT and fully fueled later in the afternoon. Clocks will tick down to T-0 seconds at 5 p.m. EDT.
Known as a Wet Dress Rehearsal, or WDR, this is the second Atlas 5 countdown test performed as a pathfinder exercise to practice transporting the rocket to the pad, loading propellants and conducting mock launch days for the control team.
Lockheed Martin originally intended to run three WDRs in advance of this first Atlas 5 launch. However, the first rehearsal in March was so successful that officials opted to do just two.
The tests give engineers the chance to uncover any problems or concerns so they can be resolved before the real launch day arrives.
The Atlas 5 is designed to be assembled atop a 1.5-million pound mobile launch platform in the new Vertical Integration Facility at Complex 41. It is then transported 1,800 feet to the open-air pad about 12 hours before liftoff time.
Following today's countdown rehearsal, the rocket will be safed and its cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants drained. The RP-1 kerosene fuel for the first stage will be drained on Thursday morning.
Plans call for the rocket to be rolled back to the Vertical Integration Facility around 2 p.m. on Thursday.
Watch this page for updates on the critical rehearsal.
SUNDAY, MARCH 17, 2002
TUESDAY, MARCH 12, 2002
MONDAY, MARCH 11, 2002
TUESDAY, JANUARY 29, 2002
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Atlas 5 overview - Our story looking at a new era in American space rocketry.
Launch timeline - A preview of the events to occur during the first Atlas 5 launch.
The rocket - Technical story of the new Atlas 5 rocket family.
Complex 41 - A tour of the Atlas 5 launch site and description of the "clean pad" concept.
Dual ops - Current Atlas rocket models not going away for awhile.
Hot Bird 6 - Learn more about the satellite cargo for the first Atlas 5 launch.
The weather - A look at the challenges of forecasting the weather for Atlas 5.
Atlas index - A directory of our previous Atlas launch coverage.
Flight data file
Vehicle: Atlas 5 (AV-001)
Payload: Hot Bird 6
Launch date: August 21, 2002
Launch window: 6:05-7:34 p.m. EDT (2205-2334 GMT)
Launch site: Complex 41, Cape Canaveral AFS, Florida
Satellite broadcast: Galaxy 3, Transponder 1, C-band
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Watch 4-min, 20-sec movie of the Atlas 5 rocket rolling from the Vertical Integration Building to the open-air launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Complex 41.
QuickTime or RealVideo
As the Atlas 5 rocket was preparing to roll off its launch pad for return to the Vertical Integration Facility to conclude the first countdown dress rehearsal, Spaceflight Now was there to capture this 360-degree panorama.
VIEW (QuickTime file)
With the Atlas 5 rocket back inside the Vertical Integration Facility about 1,800 feet away, Spaceflight Now captured this 360-degree panorama from the base of the launch pad at Cape Canaveral's Complex 41.
VIEW (QuickTime file)
See full listing of video clips.