New national security mission to fly on Atlas 5
Posted: December 10, 2003

International Launch Services (ILS) has received authorization to begin operations for the launch of a new payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) on a Lockheed Martin Atlas 5 rocket.

The launch is set for early 2006 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

Mission officials sign agreement to launch an NRO payload aboard the Atlas 5 rocket. Credit: ILS
This NRO launch is a new mission added to ILS' existing contract for launches under the Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. Details about the payload are classified.

"We're proud to be entrusted with this crucial national security mission," said ILS President Mark Albrecht. "The Atlas team has proven its dedication to reliable service, resulting in a flawless record of 67 launches on various configurations over more than 10 years."

ILS' most recent mission for the NRO was the successful launch Dec. 2 of a national security payload on an Atlas 2AS vehicle from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. That was the final Atlas IIAS mission from the West Coast, and Lockheed Martin is modifying its facilities at Vandenberg in order to accommodate Atlas 5 operations in 2005.

Lockheed Martin developed the Atlas 5 vehicle to meet Air Force EELV requirements and for ILS commercial missions. The Atlas 5 rocket has flown three times since its debut in August 2002, each with a commercial payload and each successfully. The Atlas 5 vehicle is designed to lift payloads up to nearly 8,700 kg to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO).

ILS is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp. that markets and manages government and commercial missions on the Atlas rocket to customers worldwide.