A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket successfully launched the third Space Based Infrared Systems Geosynchronous Earth Orbit spacecraft this evening. The first launch from the East Coast in 2017 blasted into the night sky from Space Launch Complex 41 at 7:42 p.m. ET. Liftoff was delayed one day due to an engine technical issue and at the last second of the launch window by an aircraft that strayed into restricted airspace.
“ULA is proud to deliver this critical satellite which will improve surveillance capabilities for our national decision makers,” said Laura Maginnis, ULA vice president of Government Satellite Launch. “I can’t think of a better way to kick off the new year.”
This mission was launched aboard an Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) 401 configuration vehicle, which includes a 4-meter diameter large payload fairing (LPF). The Atlas V booster propulsion for this mission was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine, and the Centaur upper stage was powered by the Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C engine.
“The Atlas V 401 configuration has become the workhorse of the Atlas V fleet, delivering half of all Atlas V missions to date” said Maginnis. “ULA understands that even with the most reliable launch vehicles, our sustained mission success is only made possible with seamless integration between our customer and our world class ULA team.”
Orbital ATK produced the 10-foot diameter composite heat shield, which provides higher performance with lower weight, and essential protection for the first stage of the launch vehicle from engine exhaust temperatures in excess of 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The assembly was fabricated using advanced fiber placement manufacturing techniques at Orbital ATK’s Iuka, Mississippi facility. This is the 69th Atlas V launch using Orbital ATK-built composite structures.
“It was great to see another successful ULA Atlas V launch that flew Orbital ATK-produced structures and components for both the launch vehicle and satellite,” said Steve Earl, Vice President and General Manager of Orbital ATK’s Aerospace Structures Division. “No matter the mission, this is a really good example of the breadth of our product line and the critical role we play in almost every EELV launch.”
Lockheed Martin Space Systems designed and built the GEO Flight 3 satellite for the U.S. Air Force. Orbital ATK provided propellant and pressurant tanks manufactured in its Commerce, California facility.
The SBIRS constellation is designed to deliver timely, reliable, accurate and vital missile warning information to a host of officials, including the President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense, combatant commanders, joint task force commanders, the intelligence community and other key decision makers. The SBIRS GEO Flight 4 satellite is scheduled for launch in the fourth quarter of 2017.
The SBIRS team is led by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s Remote Sensing Systems Directorate, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif. SBIRS is designed to provide global persistent infrared surveillance capability to meet 21st century demands in mission areas including missile warning, missile defense, technical intelligence and battlespace awareness.
The first launch of 2017 from Cape Canaveral AFS was ULA’s first launch of 11 planned launches in 2017 and the 116th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.
“Congratulations to ULA, SMC and the entire integrated team who ensured the success of our first of potentially 30-plus launches this year,” said Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, 45th Space Wing commander and mission Launch Decision Authority. “Once again, the entire team worked hand-in-hand to make this another successful launch for the Air Force and our nation. This launch clearly demonstrates the successful collaboration we have with our mission partners as we continue to shape the future of America’s space operations and showcase why the 45th Space Wing is the ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space.’”
Up next for ULA at Cape Canaveral is the upcoming launch of the Delta IV WGS-9 mission for the U.S. Air Force, scheduled for March 8 from Space Launch Complex-37.
2017 Matthew Travis @MatthewBTravis
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