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In what seemed like rapid-fire succession with historic results, Lockheed Martin Space Systems packed an incredible string of five successful space missions into a four-week span in May.
The run of missions began with the May 3 launch of an Atlas IIA rocket carrying the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-L (GOES-L), followed by the May 8 Titan IV B launch of a Defense Support Program (DSP) military satellite, the successful in-orbit flight of another Lockheed Martin-built Global Positioning System satellite for the U.S. Air Force May 10, the Space Shuttle Atlantis mission May 19 to the International Space Station, and concluded with the historic inaugural launch and spectacular space images of the new Atlas III with its Russian RD-180 booster engine and single-engine Centaur upper stage.
"It was a great month for our customers and a great month for Lockheed Martin," said Albert E. Smith, executive vice president, Space Systems. "Each success was hard earned and well deserved. We had every confidence that we would deliver five successes for our customers, but seeing them launch one on the heels of another was an exceptionally rewarding experience. Congratulations to the dedicated teams at all of our business units that helped make them happen."
The back-to-back operations began with the May 3rd Atlas IIA launch of the GOES-L weather satellite for NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems-Astronautics Operations, headquartered in Denver, CO, this was the fourth Atlas launch of advanced GOES weather satellites currently in orbit and the 49th Atlas success in a row. The satellite will be used as a spare and placed into operation as needed. The GOES satellites perform a vital role in tracking worldwide weather patterns and enhancing capability for forecasting major weather events, such as hurricanes.
Then came the roar of a Titan IV May 8 from Cape Canaveral, when a Titan IV B, the United States’ largest and most powerful expendable launch vehicle, boosted a Defense Support Program (DSP) satellite into orbit for the U.S. Air Force. The flight was the first since another successful Titan IV B flew from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA, last year. The DSP spacecraft was successfully placed in orbit among a constellation of similar satellites that the Air Force uses to provide early warning of missile launches worldwide.
The Titan IV B is built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems-Astronautics Operations. During the next three years, Lockheed Martin will transition from the existing Titan and Atlas families of launch vehicles to the next-generation Atlas V rockets, which the company is developing in cooperation with the U.S. Air Force Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program.
Next came the May 11 Cape Canaveral launch of a GPS satellite built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems-Missiles & Space Operations, headquartered in Sunnyvale, CA. The satellite flew into orbit as part of the Air Force’s initiative to replace older GPS satellites with a new generation of spacecraft. Originally designed as a guidance and navigational tool for the military, GPS has proven beneficial in a variety of uses, including transportation, surveying and search and rescue operations. Missiles & Space will provide 17 more GPS satellites to the Air Force.
Space Shuttle
May 19 brought another spectacular liftoff of the most-updated Space Shuttle ever — outfitted with a new "glass cockpit" and other state-of-the-art upgrades to key systems. Launched by NASA from Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a two-week mission to the International Space Station, the Shuttle mission was managed and conducted by United Space Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. This mission was especially challenging because of more than 100 modifications made to the Atlantis shuttle since its previous flight.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems’ Michoud Operations in New Orleans, LA, builds the external fuel tank that provides propellants to the Space Shuttle orbiter during its ascent to orbit. Other elements of Lockheed Martin that contributed to the mission were Lockheed Martin Space Operations and Lockheed Martin Technical Operations, both in the Technology Services business area, which provide a wide variety of support to the shuttle program.
And Atlas Again
And the string of successes couldn’t have ended on more historic proportion than with the successful first flight of Lockheed Martin’s new Atlas III May 24. It marked the first use of the RD-180 Russian engine, first
single-engine Centaur and the 50th Atlas success in a row. The inaugural Atlas III, designated AC-201, successfully placed a EUTELSAT W4
international communications satellite into orbit. Marked by suspense and anticipation, the launch was delayed four times by weather, radar and technical issues and even delays caused by Range constraints when boats off the Florida coast strayed into the rocket’s fly-over path. Finally, on the fifth attempt, the historic rocket thundered into the sky and successfully placed its payload into orbit.
The Atlas III, built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems-Astronautics Operations, is the centerpiece of Lockheed Martin’s strategy to maintain its preeminence in the global launch services market. Boosted by the new Russian-designed RD-180 propulsion system produced by a joint venture of Pratt & Whitney in the United States and NPO Energomash in Russia, and a single-engine Centaur, the new Atlas III proved out a majority of the new flight systems that will be used on Lockheed Martin’s next-generation Atlas V rockets.
Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global enterprise principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture and integration of advanced-technology systems, products and services. The Corpo ration’s core businesses are systems integration, space, aeronautics, and technology services. Employing more than 140,000 people worldwide, Lockheed Martin had 1999 sales surpassing $25 billion.
For more information, check out these websites:
Titan —
Atlas — or
Space shuttle — or
GOES satellites — or
GPS satellites —