Spaceflight Now: Atlas launch report

Spanish satellite rides Atlas rocket into Earth orbit
Hispasat 1C to serve Europe, Americas
BY JUSTIN RAY
SPACEFLIGHT NOW

Posted: Feb. 4, 2000

  Launch
The Atlas 2AS rocket lifts off with Hispasat 1C. Photo: Lockheed Martin TV/Spaceflight Now
 
Neither the weather nor a minor technical problem could spoil Thursday's launch of a Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket carrying the Spanish Hispasat 1C communications satellite.

As night fell at Cape Canaveral Air Station in Florida, the Atlas launch team faced a last-minute glitch with a range safety receiver on the rocket and questionable weather conditions.

But at 6:30 p.m. EST (2330 GMT), some 20 minutes late, the troubles were put rest and the rocket's engines roared to life.

For spectators, including dignitaries from Spain who flew to Florida to watch their satellite lift off, the Atlas rocket quickly vanished from sight, disappearing into a low deck of clouds less than 20 seconds into flight. The rocket was never seen again.

The Atlas rocket and its Centaur upper stage did their job successfully, delivering Hispasat 1C into a near-perfect orbit for the Madrid-based Hispasat communications provider.

In fact, the rocket's guidance computer had to shut down the Centaur's twin engines during the stage's second firing to keep Hispasat 1C from entering too high an orbit.

Encapsulation
The Hispasat 1C spacecraft is enclosed by the rocket's nose cone in the AstroTech processing facility. Photo: Lockheed Martin TV/Spaceflight Now
 
 
Deployment of the satellite from Centaur occurred less than 29 minutes into flight, marking the 48th consecutive success for the Atlas rocket family dating back to 1993. Of that total, 45 launches used the newer Atlas 2-series of rockets that have an unblemished 100 percent mission success rate.

Orbital data provided by Lockheed Martin indicated the satellite was injected into an orbit with a high point of 46,066 km, virtually at the specified ceiling set by satellite controllers. The low point of the orbit dips to 166.761 km, a tiny fraction from the expected altitude. The inclination was accurate at 18.7632 degrees to the equator.

Hispasat 1C ground controllers established contact with the satellite about five minutes after its release from the rocket. The signal verified Hispasat 1C had survived the journey into orbit.

Controllers will guide the satellite through three engine firings over the next 8 to 9 days to raise and circularize the craft's orbit, ultimately placing Hispasat into geostationary orbit about 35,000 km above Earth.

  AC-158 poster
The mission poster for this launch. Photo: ILS
 

The satellite then will be tested before entering commercial service in early March, joining Hispasat's two other satellites parked above the equator at 30 degrees West longitude.

Soon to be a trio, the Hispasat fleet serves both Europe and the Americas for Spanish language telecommunications services. The satellites are used to relay direct-to-home television, while providing other video distribution, interactive TV and high speed Internet access.

Hispasat 1C was built by Alcatel Space in Cannes, France, and features 24 high power Ku-band transponders. Its life expectancy is 15 years.

The satellite, launch and other services were insured for $200 million.

The next Atlas launch is planned for March 20. An Atlas 2AS rocket will launch a classified payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office from pad 36A.

Pad 36B, where Thursday's launch originated, will be used next to support the maiden flight of Lockheed Martin's new Atlas 3 rocket. The booster will be erected on the pad on February 23 in preparation for liftoff on April 14.

Flight data file
Vehicle: Atlas 2AS (AC-158)
Payload: Hispasat 1C
Launch date: Feb. 3, 2000
Launch window: 2310-0002 GMT (6:10-7:02 p.m. EST)
Launch site: SLC-36B, Cape Canaveral Air Station, Fla.

Photo gallery
Launch - Images from Thursday's countdown and launch.

Video vault
The Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket lifts off with the Hispasat 1C communications satellite from Cape Canaveral.
  PLAY (281K, 32sec QuickTime file)

Launch Weather Officer Jim Sardonia gives the forecast for Thursday's Atlas rocket launch attempt.
  PLAY (594k, 1min 31sec QuickTime file)

An in-depth look at the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket and Centaur upper stage that will launch Hispasat 1C.
  PLAY (431k, 1min 02sec QuickTime file)

Pre-launch briefing
Atlas 2AS vehicle data - Overview of the rocket that will launch Hispasat 1C into space.

Hispasat 1C - Description of the satellite to be launched on AC-158.

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

Launch windows - Available windows for future launch dates of AC-158.

Atlas index - Listing of our previous Atlas coverage.

Explore the Net
International Launch Services - Lockheed Martin-led consortium which globally markets the U.S. Atlas and Russian Proton rockets.

Lockheed Martin Astronautics - U.S. company which builds and launches the Atlas family of rockets.

Hispasat - Spanish company that will use Hispasat 1C for communications services between Europe and Americas.

Alcatel Space - European company that built the Hispasat 1C satellite.

3rd SLS - U.S. Air Force Space Launch Squadron responsible for the Atlas at Cape Canaveral.

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