By Ken Warren, 45th Space Wing Public Affairs

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. — The upcoming Evolved Expendable
Launch Vehicle (EELV) era at Cape Canaveral AFS got another step closer
with the arrival of the first flight Atlas V booster June 5.

The booster is the largest and most powerful Atlas built to date. Because
of its size, it was shipped separately from the first flight Centaur upper
stage, which arrived at the Cape June 3.

After being offloaded from a Russian transport aircraft at the Cape Skid
Strip June 6, the booster was taken to the new Atlas Spaceflight Operations
Center (ASOC) and placed near its Centaur upper stage. In the coming months,
they’ll be used in a series of tests at the ASOC to validate all support
systems. Later, the vehicle will be moved to the new Vertical Integration
Facility (VIF) where it will be used to validate VIF umbilical connections
and the mobile launch platform autocouplers.

“We now have the actual launch vehicle here at the launch site to start
validating all of the ground infrastructure that will support a launch,”
said Adrian Laffitte, director of Atlas Launch programs for Lockheed Martin.

The first launch of the Atlas V is May 2002.

Lockheed Martin’s Atlas V and Boeing’s Delta IV are the cornerstones of the
Air Force’s EELV program. The Air Force awarded $500 million contracts to
both companies for EELV engineering and manufacturing. The two companies
were also awarded separate contracts for initial launch services on EELV.
These two families of launch vehicles will replace the Air Force’s current
fleet of medium- and heavy-launch systems — Atlas, Delta and Titan.

The Atlas booster is unloaded from a Russian An-124-100 transport aircraft
at Cape Canaveral AFS’ Skid Strip June 6. (Photo by Carleton Bailie)