Atlas V has put another notch in their impressive belt of successful missions. It’s not a cheap rocket, but it is certainly reliable. It’s an interesting launch to watch; the rocket seems to practically crawl out of Vandenberg. This is the lightest variant of Atlas V, and from the performance I’d guess the payload/orbit is right at the limits of its capacity without boosters. Makes it kind of fun to watch. 😉
Good gracious. I’m not sure whether this is amazingly awesome or totally ridiculous, or maybe a bit of both. They seriously have a costumed Atlas V mascot now. I kinda want to hug him.
Feb 28,2017. Vandenberg AFB CA. ULA’s mascot Rockey greets guest visiting guest at the Atlas 5 launch pad Tuesday. A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket is scheduled to blast off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 9:50 a.m. local time (12:50 p.m. EST; 1750 GMT) Wednesday to deploy a National Reconnaissance Office satellite payload known as NROL-79.
Photo by Gene Blevins/LA DailyNews/SCNG
Also, Atlas V is going to liftoff from Vandenberg AFB in California tomorrow morning at 9:50AM local time with a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office. It will be flying in its lightest configuration, and making a “coast hugging” path to the south (based on where the NOTAMs have been issued), although the final orbit is of course not disclosed.
Here’s ULA’s preview of the mission, using stock footage of prior launches and CGI animation:
DigitalGlobe, provider of the most detailed satellite imagery available on the commercial market, has completed on-orbit checkout and commissioning of their latest bird: WorldView 4. WorldView 4 is a twin to WorldView 3, offering an unprecedented 1-foot resolution with its 3.6 foot aperture main telescope. But since WorldView 3 is completely booked by the US military, WorldView 4 opens up this capability to the public. In fact, it began acquiring images for paying customers on February 1, so this capability is already very real.
To commemorate the occasion, DigitalGlobe released this spectacular image, shot by WorldView 2, of SLC-3 at Vandenberg AFB right as the Atlas V rocket climbed away with WorldView 4 on board:
An Atlas V in its base 401 configuration placed the SBIRS GEO 3 military early-warning satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit this evening:
Atlas V chalked up another successful mission today, blasting off from Cape Canaveral in the 431 configuration (4-meter fairing, 3 solid boosters, single-engine Centaur). The payload was EchoStar 19, a commercial commsat that will be operated by HughesNet to provide high speed satellite Internet service across North America. It’s unusual to see the highly reliable but expensive Atlas V flying a commercial mission; in this case, HughesNet selected the vehicle due to rapid availability. They are currently constrained from growing their service due to all of their existing spot-beams being at full capacity; EchoStar 19 will provide 160 more spot-beams, allowing them to grow beyond their current million customers. The spacecraft is expected to enter service in March, following on-orbit testing, and will join HughesNet’s two other spacecraft, EchoStar 17 and Spaceway 3.
An Atlas 541 (the second-heaviest configuration Atlas V in active use) blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Station today, ferrying the massive GOES-R weather satellite into its geosynchronous transfer orbit. This was the one hundred launch of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Program, created by the USAF in the 1990s and ultimately producing the Atlas V (by General Dynamics, then Lockheed Martin) and the Delta IV (by Boeing). It is not likely to ever reach its 200th flight; both vehicles are due to be replaced by a newer rocket, the Vulcan, in a few years. But the program has enjoyed a remarkable success rate — 98 flawless flights, 2 ending in suboptimal orbits. That is an exceptionally rare success rate in rocketry.
The spacecraft, operated by NASA on behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is the first of a fleet of four next-generation geosynchronous weather satellites; total cost of the program, including development and operation, is $11 billion. But it’s an enormously valuable investment, because these satellites will be equipped like no other weather satellites. They will be able to complete
Once it reaches its perch, GOES-R will become GOES-16. (They do not receive their numbers until they successfully arrive in orbit.) It will then spend a year sitting at 89.5 degrees west, undergoing testing for its commissioning phase. It will eventually be moved to the primary GOES perches, as either GOES-East or GOES-West. Those two positions are currently held by GOES-13 and GOES-15. GOES-14 is also still in orbit, currently biding its time as an on-orbit spare. Given the enormous amounts of money involved, and the absolutely critical nature of the data these spacecraft deliver, NASA and NOAA both want them up well in advance of them going into service, just in case.
GOES-R is much more advanced than its predecessors. It carries advanced space weather sensors, in recognition of the fact that space weather forecasting has become enormously important both to our sensitive power grid and the many spacecraft we depend upon, the first-ever lightning imager designed to operate from geostationary orbit, a camera that can complete a full-disk image in just five minutes (fast enough to create detailed animations useful in local weather forecasting), and much more. It’s so packed with revolutionary new instruments that scientists are excited just to find out what they can do with the gargantuan flood of data these spacecraft will produce. It’s going to be fun to see what they come up with!
Here are some pretty rocket videos to enjoy. 😉 First, from last week, the Atlas V launch of the WorldView 4 commercial imaging satellite, from Vandenberg AFB:
And then, in preparation for launch this week, here’s the Soyuz MS-03 rocket stack rollout at Baikonur Cosmodrome: