AC-144 Launch Timeline
SPACEFLIGHT NOW
Posted: December 1, 2002

T-00:02.4 Engine start
Engine start Atlas booster and sustainer engines are ignited and undergo checkout prior to liftoff.
T+00:00 Launch
Liftoff The Atlas 2A rocket, designated AC-144, lifts off and begins a vertical rise away from launch pad 36A at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
T+00:08 Roll Program
Roll During vertical ascent, Atlas begins a 7-second roll maneuver to align itself with proper flight azimuth. Following the roll, the Centaur inertial guidance system controls pitch and yaw programs.
T+02:46 Booster Engine Cutoff
BECO BECO occurs when axial acceleration of 5.0 g is obtained. Sustainer engine provides the continued boost toward orbit for the Atlas rocket.
T+02:49 Jettison Booster Package
Booster sep The bottom engine structure with the two booster engine nozzles is separated from the Atlas vehicle.
T+03:39 Jettison Payload Fairing
Fairing separation The 14-foot diameter aluminum payload fairing that protected the TDRS-J satellite during launch through the atmosphere is separated once heating levels drop to predetermined limits.
T+04:34 Sustainer Engine Cutoff
SECO SECO is commanded once minimum residual propellant is sensed inside the Atlas booster stage.
T+04:36 Atlas/Centaur Separation
Atlas separation The Atlas booster stage separates from the Centaur upper stage. Over the next few seconds, the Centaur engine nozzles are deployed and liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen systems are readied for ignition.
T+04:53 Centaur 1st Main Engine Start
MES-1 MES 1, the longer of the two Centaur firings begins to inject the upper stage and TDRS-J spacecraft into a low-altitude parking orbit around Earth.
T+09:46 Centaur Main Engine Cutoff
Coast MECO 1 occurs the Centaur engines are shutdown, arriving in a planned parking orbit. The vehicle begins a coast period over the mid-Atlantic before arriving at the required location in space for the second burn.
T+24:29 Centaur Main Engine Re-start
MES-2 MES 2 occurs over the Atlantic Ocean between the African Ivory Coast and Ascension Island before the rocket passes over the equator. The burn lasts until all the Centaur fuel is used, placing TDRS-J into the highest energy transfer orbit possible.
T+25:49 Centaur Main Engine Cutoff
MECO-2 At the point of MECO 2, the Centaur/TDRS-J vehicle should be in the required transfer orbit of 120 by 16,278 nautical miles inclined at 27 degrees. Seconds later, the stage begins aligning to the satellite separation attitude.
T+29:36 Spacecraft Separation
Spacecraft separation NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-J communications satellite is released into orbit from the Centaur upper stage to complete the AC-144 launch.

Image and data source: International Launch Services and Lockheed Martin Astronautics.

Flight data file
Vehicle: Atlas 2A (AC-144)
Payload: TDRS-J
Launch date: December 4, 2002
Launch window: 9:42-10:22 p.m. EST (0242-0322 GMT on Dec. 5)
Launch site: SLC-36A, Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla.
Satellite broadcast: GE-2, Trans. 9, C-band

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.

TDRS-J - Description of this NASA tracking and data relay satellite.

History of TDRSS - Past launches of TDRS satellites and their current status.

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


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