BY JUSTIN RAY

Follow the countdown and launch of the GOES-M weather satellite aboard a Lockheed Martin Atlas 2A rocket. Reload this page for the very latest on the mission.

0902 GMT (5:02 a.m. EDT)

The GOES-M spacecraft is reported to be in good shape following its launch into orbit this morning by the Atlas rocket.

At about 4:40 a.m., the outer panel of the satellite's power-generating solar array was successfully deployed.

"We're off to a great start," said Martin Davis, GOES project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "The spacecraft is now in transfer orbit and all data indicates we have a healthy spacecraft."

Over the next 17 days, NASA and NOAA ground controllers will oversee a series of orbital raising maneuvers, boosting the spacecraft from its currently egg-shaped orbit to a circular geostationary orbit 22,240 miles above the Earth's equator at 90 degrees West longitude.

The first of several burns to move the spacecraft into its final orbit begin approximately 20 hours after liftoff, when controllers perform the first apogee motor firing, lasting for 53 minutes. The second firing is scheduled for approximately four days after liftoff and will last for 30 minutes.

The third and final apogee motor firing is scheduled for approximately six days after launch, and will last for approximately six minutes. Apogee is the point at which a spacecraft is farthest from the Earth and at its minimum velocity. Apogee burns are designed to boost GOES-M from its transfer orbit to geosynchronous orbit.

Once in geostationary orbit GOES-M will be renamed GOES-12. The satellite will undergo several months of checkout before being placed into an orbital storage mode. It will be activated to replace one of the two primary GOES satellites when one fails.

0753 GMT (3:53 a.m. EDT)

Lockheed Martin has announced data on the orbit achieved during the launch, and the Atlas rocket performed right as expected. The GOES-M payload was injected into the planned geosynchronous transfer orbit around Earth with an apogee of 22,827 nautical miles of the planned 22,833 miles, a perigee of 148.5 nautical miles of planned 148.6 miles and inclination of 20.5 degrees.

0750 GMT (3:50 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 27 minutes. SPACECRAFT SEPARATION! The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-M weather spacecraft has been released into space following a smooth launch today by the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2A rocket. This marks the 56th consecutive successful launch by an Atlas rocket dating back to 1993.

0749 GMT (3:49 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 26 minutes. Spinup of the Centaur upper stage has started in advance of payload deployment in about a minute.

0748 GMT (3:48 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 25 minutes. The Centaur is beginning its reorientation maneuver to prepare for releasing the payload. Officials report the second Centaur burn was the proper length.

0746 GMT (3:46 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 23 minutes, 40 seconds. MECO 2. Centaur has completed its second firing, completing the powered phase of today's launch. Coming up on deployment of the GOES-M satellite at T+plus 27 minutes.

0745 GMT (3:45 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 22 minutes, 15 seconds. Centaur is up and burning again. The two RL-10 engines have reignited for an 81-second firing to accelerate the GOES payload into its required orbit around Earth.

0744 GMT (3:44 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 21 minutes, 30 seconds. Small thrusters on the stage are firing to settle the propellant inside the vehicle's tanks to prepare for engine ignition.

0744 GMT (3:44 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 21 minutes. The Ascension Island downrange tracking station is picking up the rocket's signal.

0743 GMT (3:43 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 20 minutes. The vehicle is now approaching the African Ivory Coast as it coasts above the Central Atlantic. Just over two minutes to Centaur engine restart.

0737 GMT (3:37 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 14 minutes. The vehicle is in a coast period. Restart of the Centaur is planned to occur at T+plus 22 minutes, 3 seconds for a 81-second burn.

0735 GMT (3:35 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 12 minutes. Officials report the parking orbit achieved is right on the money. The apogee altitude is 272.62 nautical miles and perigee altitude of 88.59 nautical miles.

0732 GMT (3:32 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 9 minutes, 55 seconds. MECO 1. The Centaur main engines have cut off as planned following the first of two planned firings to deliver the GOES-M satellite into orbit.

0732 GMT (3:32 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 9 minutes. Smooth flight of the Atlas-Centaur rocket. No problems reported.

0728 GMT (3:28 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 5 minutes, 5 seconds. The sustainer engine on Atlas has shut down as planned. Separation of the Atlas stage confirmed and ignition of Centaur's two engines has occurred. Full thrust reported for the Centaur's RL-10 powerplants.

0726 GMT (3:26 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 3 minutes, 45 seconds. The payload fairing has been jettisoned. It is no longer needed to protect GOES-M satellite during the launch.

0725 GMT (3:25 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 2 minutes, 50 seconds. The booster engine system has shut down and the booster package -- the bottom section of the rocket -- has been jettisoned. The sustainer engine of the Atlas vehicle still firing.

0725 GMT (3:25 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 2 minutes. Atlas' Rocketdyne MA-5A engines continue to burn.

0724 GMT (3:24 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 60 seconds.

0723 GMT (3:23 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 30 seconds. Pitch and roll programs underway as the vehicle heads eastward away from Florida. The Atlas engines are firing to propel the vehicle toward a geosynchronous transfer orbit to deliver the GOES-M weather satellite.

0723 GMT (3:23 a.m. EDT)

LIFTOFF! Liftoff of the Lockheed Martin Atlas rocket launching GOES-M -- a terrestrial and space weather observer. And the vehicle has cleared the tower.

0722 GMT (3:22 a.m. EDT)

T-minus 31 seconds. Launch Sequence Start. The Atlas 2A rocket's onboard computer is now controlling the remainder of the countdown.

In the next few seconds the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen vent valves will be locked and the flight data recorders will be readied. The engine ignition sequence will begin at T-minus 2.4 seconds.

0722 GMT (3:22 a.m. EDT)

T-minus 1 minute. Engines are being verified ready for flight. The final status checks of the propellant and pneumatic systems are upcoming to confirm the Atlas and Centaur stages are "go" for launch.

In the past minute, the inertial navigation unit was launch enabled, liquid hydrogen tanking was secured, fuel tank pressures reported stable and the ignition enable switch was closed.

0721 GMT (3:21 a.m. EDT)

T-minus 2 minutes. Pressurization of the Atlas/Centaur vehicle has started. Tanks now being brought to proper pressure levels for flight. Also, the vehicle's inadvertent separation destruct safety system has been armed.

Shortly, the Centaur upper stage will go to internal power and the flight termination system will be armed.

0720 GMT (3:20 a.m. EDT)

T-minus 3 minutes. The water system is being readied for activation at launch pad 36A. Water will flood the pad to suppress the sound produced at liftoff and protect the ground support systems.

And the GOES satellite is confirmed on internal power and go for launch.

0719 GMT (3:19 a.m. EDT)

T-minus 4 minutes. The Atlas booster stage and Flight Termination System are switching from ground-supplied power to internal batteries. The ground trickle charge to the satellite payload has been stopped and the spacecraft is on internal power.

0718 GMT (3:18 a.m. EDT)

T-minus 5 minutes and counting! The clocks are running again. We are now inside the final portion of today's countdown to the launch of the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2A rocket with the GOES-M weather satellite from pad 36A at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Liftoff set for 3:02 a.m. EDT.

0717 GMT (3:17 a.m. EDT)

Lockheed Martin Launch Director Adrian Laffitte has given his "go". There are no technical problems, the weather is acceptable and Range is clear. Standing by to resume the countdown in one minute.

The GOES-M spacecraft is switching to internal power at this time.

Should a problem force the countdown to be stopped inside the final 5 minutes, here is an explanation of recycle options depending on when the clocks were halted:

From the start of the automatic countdown at T-minus 31 seconds until T-minus 0.7 seconds, the launch conductor will be able to stop the countdown manually. A hold during the automatic sequence between T-minus 31 seconds and T-minus 11.3 seconds will equire a recycle to T-minus 5 minutes. A hold between T-minus 12 seconds and T-minus 9 seconds will require a recycle to T-minus 5 minutes for a minimum of one hour to re-initialize the INU in preparation for reentering the terminal count. A hold after Atlas start tanks are pressurized or Centaur equipment module vent door squibs fire (T-minus 8.65 seconds) and before T-minus 4 seconds will necessitate a launch abort and require a recycle to T-minus 24 hours. A hold after T-minus 4 seconds but prior to T-minus 0.7 seconds will necessitate a launch abort and require a 48 hour recycle.

0715 GMT (3:15 a.m. EDT)

The Lockheed Martin final readiness poll of the entire launch team was just performed by Launch Conductor Ed Christiansen in the Complex 36 Blockhouse. Everyone reported "go" for launch!

0709 GMT (3:09 a.m. EDT)

The Range says it will be "go" for launch at 3:23 a.m. -- the boat will be clear by that time.

0707 GMT (3:07 a.m. EDT)

NASA is saying the boat in the launch danger area is a tug boat and is moving slowly.

Today will mark the 567th launch of an Atlas rocket; the 133rd flight of a Centaur upper stage on an Atlas; and second Atlas launch of 2001.

0701 GMT (3:01 a.m. EDT)

NEW LAUNCH TIME. Lockheed Martin Launch Conductor Ed Christiansen has set 3:23 a.m. EDT as the new target launch time based upon the predicted clear of the intruder boat. So this hold at T-minus 5 minutes will be extended for another 11 minutes.

0659 GMT (2:59 a.m. EDT)

The Range says the boat should be cleared out of the restricted "box" by 3:15 a.m.

0657 GMT (2:57 a.m. EDT)

The Antigua radar is now reported to be back online and ready to support today's launch by providing tracking and safety services. The only obstacle left is the one boat in the restricted waters off Cape Canaveral.

0654 GMT (2:54 a.m. EDT)

NEW LAUNCH TIME. The Range says it will be 3:05 a.m. before the radar will be working again. And to add to the situation, the Range reports there is a boat in the restricted launch danger zone.

So with that the launch team has reset liftoff to 3:12 a.m. EDT, or 10 minutes later than planned.

0651 GMT (2:51 a.m. EDT)

NASA Launch Manager Chuck Dovale has polled his team for a readiness to proceed with the flight. No problems were reported by the NASA team and the GOES spacecraft is ready. We are still awaiting the Range to fix the radar problem, however. This hold at T-minus 5 minutes is expected to be extended.

0647 GMT (2:47 a.m. EDT)

Range is expecting an update in a couple of minutes on the Antigua tracking radar, which is down. It is deemed mandatory that the radar be working at the time of launch.

0644 GMT (2:44 a.m. EDT)

RANGE IS RED. The Air Force-controlled Eastern Range is down because of a problem with the tracking radar at Antigua Island. No word yet on how long it will be before the problem can be corrected.

0643 GMT (2:43 a.m. EDT)

The Complex 36 Blockhouse doors and escape tunnel doors are being sealed for launch.

0642 GMT (2:42 a.m. EDT)

T-minus 5 minutes and holding. The countdown has entered the planned hold. This pause is slated to last 15 minutes. There are no major technical problems being worked by the launch team and weather conditions are presently "go". The Atlas-Centaur rocket is now fully fueled and just awaiting the final minutes before liftoff at 3:02 a.m. EDT.

0637 GMT (2:37 a.m. EDT)

T-minus 10 minutes and counting. Coming up on the planned 15-minute built-in hold at T-minus 5 minutes. The liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen tanks have all been brought up to flight level, and the other countdown activities continue smoothly for an on-time liftoff.

The weather reconnaissance aircraft is reporting the clouds are about 2,000 feet thick, which is acceptable for flight. The limit is 4,500 feet.

0629 GMT (2:29 a.m. EDT)

Launch Weather Officer Jim Sardonia has just given his another update to managers. All launch rules are currently "go" at this point. The main concerns are the thick cloud rule, which prohibits launch if the clouds are thicker than 4,500 feet. Also, the ground winds are picking up a bit. Latest readings at the pad clocked the wind at 23 knots. The limit is 27 knots. Sardonia says the weather will be better in the early portion of the launch window.

0622 GMT (2:22 a.m. EDT)

T-minus 25 minutes and counting. Countdown clocks are marching down to the T-minus 5 minute mark where a 15-minute hold will occur. Interrogation checks have been completed to verify the rocket's C-band beacon is ready for use to track the vehicle during flight.

The weather continues to be watched closely. Meteorologists report the clouds are thickening and some rain is moving in our direction from the south.

0616 GMT (2:16 a.m. EDT)

Fueling of the Atlas rocket and its Centaur upper stage is entering the final stages. The Atlas liquid oxygen tank has reached the 98 percent level. It will be topped off to flight level shortly. The Centaur liquid hydrogen tank is at the 97 percent level and Centaur liquid oxygen tank is being topped off to flight level.

Also, an inhibited self test of the rocket's Flight Termination System is starting. The FTS would be used to destroy the vehicle in the event of a malfunction during launch.

0601 GMT (2:01 a.m. EDT)

The liquid oxygen tank inside the Atlas booster stage is now half-full. The Centaur hydrogen tank has been filled to the 10-percent level.

0557 GMT (1:57 a.m. EDT)

The liquid hydrogen chilldown is now complete and the super-cold fuel is flowing to fill the Centaur upper stage. The cryogenic propellant will be consumed with liquid oxygen by the stage's Pratt & Whitney-made RL-10 engines to propel the GOES-M satellite into the targeted geosynchronous transfer orbit.

0551 GMT (1:51 a.m. EDT)

The rocket's shiny exterior is now turning a frosty white as a thin layer of ice forms from the super-cold liquid oxygen.

Meanwhile, Centaur liquid oxygen topping to flight level is underway. As the countdown proceeds, the tank will be replenished to replace the cryogenic liquid oxygen that naturally boils away.

There are no significant technical problems standing in the way of launch at 3:02 a.m. EDT. The weather is currently acceptable for liftoff, but there is some threat of rain or thunderstorms moving too close to the pad.

0544 GMT (1:44 a.m. EDT)

The Centaur liquid oxygen tank has reached 95 percent full level where it is being maintained. Topping to 100 percent will be completed later. Now loading of liquid oxygen into the Atlas booster stage is beginning.

And the final alignment of the Atlas rocket's inertial navigation guidance computer has been completed, and the flight control system final preps are now beginning.

0536 GMT (1:36 a.m. EDT)

The chilldown conditioning of liquid hydrogen propellant lines at pad 36A is now starting. This process is like the one performed on the liquid oxygen side whereby a small amount of the liquid is released from the pad's storage tank to prepare the plumbing for transferring the Minus-423 degree F fuel into the rocket.

Also at this time the doors of the Complex 36 Blockhouse are being sealed. The 120-member launch team is inside the blockhouse controlling the countdown just a few hundred yards away from pad 36A.

0532 GMT (1:32 a.m. EDT)

Now inside 90 minutes from the planned 3:02 a.m. EDT (0702 GMT) liftoff time.

0527 GMT (1:27 a.m. EDT)

The Centaur upper stage's liquid oxygen tank is now 20 percent full in this early portion of fueling operations.

The early report from the Anomaly Team is the suspect readings from the Centaur stage aren't a significant concern at this point.

Read our earlier status center coverage.

Status summary
Liftoff occurred at 0723 GMT (03:23 a.m. EDT), some 21 minutes late because of a Range radar problem and a vessel intruding into the launch danger area.

Loading of liquid oxygen into the Centaur upper stage began at 0517 GMT. Atlas stage oxygen tanking started at 0544 GMT; followed by Centaur hydrogen fueling at 0557 GMT.


Flight data file
Vehicle: Atlas 2A (AC-142)
Payload: GOES-M
Launch date: July 23, 2001
Launch window: 3:02-4:25 a.m. EDT (0701-0825 GMT)
Launch site: SLC-36A, Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Flight profile
Track the major launch events for the Atlas 2A rocket carrying the GOES-M satellite on Spaceflight Now's interactive flight profile page (requires JavaScript).

Pre-launch briefing
Launch timeline - Chart with times and descriptions of events to occur during the launch.

Ground track - See the trajectory the rocket will follow during its flight.

Atlas 2A vehicle data - Overview of the rocket to be used in this launch.

GOES-M - Description of the weather satellite and its role in forecasting.

Launch windows - Listing of the available times to launch in coming days.

Atlas index - A directory of our previous Atlas launch coverage.


Video vault
The following video clips are available for subscribers to our STS-104 Mission Theater:

The GOES-M satellite undergoes prelaunch preparations at the AstroTech facility on the outskirts of the Kennedy Space Center.
  PLAY (361k, 28 sec QuickTime file)
The Centaur upper stage hoisted atop the Atlas 2 rocket at Cape Canaveral's launch complex 36.
  PLAY (550k, 29 sec QuickTime file)
Enclosed in its payload fairing, the GOES-M spacecraft is hoisted atop the Atlas 2 rocket at launch complex 36.
  PLAY (474k, 24 sec QuickTime file)
Get a mission theater subscription to view these video clips.

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