NASA’s Kennedy Space
Center has chosen International Launch Services (ILS) to launch the
latest in its series of missions to Mars.

ILS is scheduled to launch the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on an
Atlas III launch vehicle in August 2005 from Cape Canaveral Air Force
Station, Fla. The Atlas is one of three families of rockets offered by
ILS, which is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp. and
two Russian companies, Khrunichev State Research and Production Space
Center and RSC Energia of Moscow.

ILS was formed to market and manage the missions for the Atlas and
the Russian Proton and Angara vehicles.

Both the Atlas rocket and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are
being built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. of Denver. The Atlas
II and III series boast a perfect record of 100 percent mission
success in 60 consecutive launches.

“We’re pleased to be selected for such an important mission,” said
ILS President Mark Albrecht. “This was a best-value, low-risk
proposition, using the proven Atlas III vehicle. Its 100 percent
successful performance was a key discriminator in NASA’s selection of
Atlas. Planetary missions like these are the bedrock of NASA’s science
mission and we are very proud that the Administration has placed its
trust in Atlas.”

Albrecht noted that the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration conducts a formal certification process for launch
vehicles to reduce risk. NASA has certified the Atlas II for launch of
critical and high-value missions such as the Tracking and Data Relay
(TDRS) satellites and the GOES weather observation satellites.

Atlas III certification is going well, and Atlas III is the first
vehicle in its class to be selected under NASA’s Launch Services (NLS)
procurement program. The Atlas III is evolved from the Atlas II
series, and flew successfully in May 2000 and February 2002.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will provide high-resolution
remote sensing of Mars’ surface for investigators to make science
observations and select possible sites for future spacecraft landings.
The orbiter also will provide telecommunications and navigation relay
capability for follow-on missions.

The Atlas III is part of the next generation of launch vehicles
being offered by ILS, based in McLean, Va. The Atlas III is a planned
progression from the Atlas II series. It also proved out technologies
that are used on the Atlas V, which Lockheed Martin developed for both
commercial missions and the U.S. Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch
Vehicle (EELV) program.

The Atlas V is scheduled to begin launching in July.

ILS offers the broadest range of launch services in the world
along with products with the highest reliability in the industry. With
two independent, highly reliable vehicles and two dedicated launch
sites, ILS pioneered the concept of Mutual Backup, thus assuring
satellites will be launched on schedule. For more information, visit