International Launch Services (ILS), a Lockheed Martin Corp. joint venture, has signed an agreement with the U.S. Air Force to launch a national security payload on an Atlas V vehicle in 2007 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Financial terms were not disclosed.
The launch, for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), carries the designation NROL-29. Details about the payload are classified. The launch vehicle will stand 62.4 meters (204.7 feet) in height and will launch in the "521" configuration, with 5-meter-diameter (16.4-foot) payload fairing, two solid rocket boosters and a single-engine Centaur upper stage. Atlas V vehicles in a similar configuration flew successfully in July 2003 and December 2004.
This is a new mission added to ILS' allocation under the Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program, bringing the total number of assignments to 16. NROL-29 is the eighth EELV assignment to be placed under firm contract with ILS and the second for launch from the West Coast pad.
Lockheed Martin has refurbished Space Launch Complex (SLC) 3-East at Vandenberg to accommodate the Atlas V vehicle, which has more than twice the lift capability as the Atlas IIAS rocket it replaces. The first launch scheduled from the new pad is another mission for the NRO.
Mark Albrecht, ILS president, said: "We have a long and valued partnership with the NRO's Office of Space Launch, using many configurations of our Atlas vehicles. Our most recent teaming was for the launch of an NRO payload on our Atlas III vehicle on Feb. 3. We are proud that the government continues to entrust us with these missions that are so important to our nation."
The Atlas V vehicle is designed to lift payloads up to 19,000 pounds to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). Lockheed Martin developed the Atlas V vehicle to meet Air Force EELV requirements and for ILS commercial missions. The Atlas V vehicle has flown five commercial missions since its debut in August 2002, all successfully.
ILS markets and manages government and commercial missions on the Atlas rocket to customers worldwide. The company is headquartered near Washington, D.C.
The Atlas rockets and their Centaur upper stages are built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. in Denver, Colo.; Harlingen, Texas; and San Diego, Calif.