Tag Archives: Atlas V

Missile Warning Satellite

Following a successful launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida earlier on May 18, 2021, the U.S. Space Force’s Space Delta 4 operations team is now «talking» with the fifth Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (SBIRS GEO-5) satellite.

SBIRS GEO-5
Lockheed Martin’s SBIRS GEO-5 missile warning spacecraft is the first military space satellite built on a modernized LM 2100 Combat Bus space vehicle

As planned, SBIRS GEO-5 – built by Lockheed Martin – is responding to the Delta’s commands. Signal acquisition was confirmed approximately ~36 minutes after the satellite’s 1:37 p.m. EDT launch aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket. Now separated from the rocket, the satellite is continuing on to orbit under its own propulsion.

SBIRS GEO-5 is the latest satellite to join the Space Force’s orbiting Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) missile warning constellation equipped with powerful scanning and staring surveillance sensors. These 24-7, always-on, orbital guardians detect missile launches, support ballistic missile defense, expand technical intelligence gathering and bolster situational awareness on the battlefield.

«The world is a more threatening place now with more than 1,000 ballistic missile launches occurring globally every year», said Tom McCormick, vice president of Lockheed Martin Space’s OPIR Mission Area. «SBIRS is the tip of the missile defense spear, seeing all those missiles and providing our military the ability to ensure our national security and the safety of our armed forces».

 

Faster, More Resilient Missile Warning

Built in about five years, SBIRS GEO-5 is the first military space satellite built on an LM 2100 Combat Bus, a version of Lockheed Martin’s modernized, modular LM 2100 space vehicle with greatly enhanced resiliency.

The LM 2100 bus is the result of a Lockheed Martin internally-funded, multi-year modernization initiative. Features include:

  • Greater resiliency and cyber-hardening;
  • Enhanced spacecraft power, propulsion and electronics;
  • Common components and procedures to streamline manufacturing;
  • Flexible design that reduces the cost to incorporate future, modernized sensor suites.

«We designed our modernized LM2100 bus with our military customers’ changing, more-contested environment, in mind», said McCormick. «By adding enhanced resiliency features to the LM 2100 we created an initial ‘combat bus’ for the Space Force for even greater capability».

SBIRS GEO-5 is a step toward achieving the resilient missile warning to be provided by SBIRS’ follow on, the Next Gen OPIR Block 0 System. SBIRS GEO-6, launching in 2022, and the first three Next Gen OPIR Block 0 GEO satellites, as well as the future GPS III Follow On (GPS IIIF) satellites, are also based on the LM 2100 Combat Bus.

Lockheed Martin is proud to be part of the SBIRS team led by the Production Corps, Geosynchronous Earth Orbit Division, at the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, California. Lockheed Martin Space, Sunnyvale, California, is the SBIRS prime contractor, with Northrop Grumman, Azusa, California, as the payload integrator.

Mission for the USAF

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)-11 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 on April 14 at 7:13 p.m. EDT. AFSPC-11 is a multi-payload mission. The forward payload is referred to as CBAS (Continuous Broadcast Augmenting SATCOM) and the aft spacecraft is EAGLE (EELV Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) Augmented Geosynchronous Experiment).

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the AFSPC-11 mission for the U.S. Air Force lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on April 14, 2018. AFSPC-11 is a multi-manifested mission. The forward spacecraft is referred to as CBAS (Continuous Broadcast Augmenting SATCOM) and the aft spacecraft is EAGLE (ESPA Augmented GEO Laboratory Experiment).
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the AFSPC-11 mission for the U.S. Air Force lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on April 14, 2018. AFSPC-11 is a multi-manifested mission. The forward spacecraft is referred to as CBAS (Continuous Broadcast Augmenting SATCOM) and the aft spacecraft is EAGLE (ESPA Augmented GEO Laboratory Experiment).

«Today’s launch is a testament to why the ULA team continually serves as our nation’s most reliable and successful launch provider for our nation’s most critical space assets», said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs. «I want to thank the entire ULA team, and the phenomenal teamwork of our mission partners».

This mission was launched aboard an Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) 551 configuration vehicle, which includes a 5-meter/16.4-foot large Payload Fairing (PLF). The Atlas booster for this mission was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine. Aerojet Rocketdyne provided the five AJ-60A Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) and RL10C-1 engine for the Centaur upper stage.

This is the 77th launch of the Atlas V rocket, ULA’s 4th launch in 2018 and the 127th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

ULA’s next launch is the InSight mission for NASA on an Atlas V rocket. The launch is scheduled for May 5 at Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

With more than a century of combined heritage, United Launch Alliance is the Nation’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 125 satellites to orbit that aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, unlock the mysteries of our solar system, provide critical capabilities for troops in the field and enable personal device-based GPS navigation.

The Air Force's AFSPC-11 mission, encapsulated inside a 5-meter payload fairing, is mated to its United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V booster inside the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) at Cape Canaveral's Space Launch Complex-41 (Photo credit: United Launch Alliance)
The Air Force’s AFSPC-11 mission, encapsulated inside a 5-meter payload fairing, is mated to its United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V booster inside the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) at Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex-41 (Photo credit: United Launch Alliance)

Missile Warning

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO Flight 4 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 on January 19 at 7:48 p.m. EST. SBIRS is considered one of the nation’s highest priority space programs, and is designed to provide global, persistent, infrared surveillance capabilities to meet 21st century demands.

An Atlas V rocket carrying the SBIRS GEO Flight 4 mission for the U.S. Air Force lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 (ULA/Jeff Spotts)
An Atlas V rocket carrying the SBIRS GEO Flight 4 mission for the U.S. Air Force lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 (ULA/Jeff Spotts)

«Meeting the challenge of launching two critical national security missions from opposite coasts within a week, the entire ULA team once again demonstrated its unwavering dedication to 100% mission success», said Laura Maginnis, ULA vice president of Government Satellite Launch. «Thank you to our U.S. Air Force and industry teammates for their outstanding partnership in successfully delivering SBIRS to orbit today».

This mission was launched aboard an Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) 411 configuration vehicle, which includes a 4-meter Payload Fairing (PLF). The Atlas booster for this mission was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine. Aerojet Rocketdyne provided the AJ-60A Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) and RL10C-1 engine for the Centaur upper stage.

This is the 75th launch of the Atlas V rocket, ULA’s 2nd launch in 2018 and the 125th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

The EELV program was established by the U.S. Air Force to provide assured access to space for Department of Defense and other government payloads. The commercially developed EELV program supports the full range of government mission requirements, while delivering on schedule and providing significant cost savings over the legacy launch systems.

ULA’s next launch is the GOES-S mission for NASA and NOAA on an Atlas V rocket. The launch is scheduled for March 1 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

With more than a century of combined heritage, United Launch Alliance is the nation’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 120 satellites to orbit that aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, unlock the mysteries of our solar system, provide critical capabilities for troops in the field and enable personal device-based GPS navigation.

Atlas V SBIRS GEO Flight 4 Launch Highlights

 

The U.S. Air Force’s SBIRS GEO Flight-4 satellite, built at Lockheed Martin’s Sunnyvale, California satellite manufacturing factory, was encapsulated on January 9
The U.S. Air Force’s SBIRS GEO Flight-4 satellite, built at Lockheed Martin’s Sunnyvale, California satellite manufacturing factory, was encapsulated on January 9

National security

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 on October 15 at 3:28 a.m. EDT. Designated NROL-52, the mission is in support of national security.

An Atlas V rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 with the National Reconnaissance Office's NROL-52 payload (United Launch Alliance/Jeff Spotts)
An Atlas V rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 with the National Reconnaissance Office’s NROL-52 payload (United Launch Alliance/Jeff Spotts)

«Today’s launch is a testament to the tireless dedication of the ULA team, demonstrating why ULA continues to serve as our nation’s most dependable and successful launch provider», said Laura Maginnis, ULA vice president of Government Satellite Launch. «After recovering from Hurricane Irma that came through the area last month, and the last week’s weather challenges, the team found the right opportunity today to deliver this critical national asset to orbit».

This mission was launched aboard an Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) 421 configuration vehicle, which includes a 4-meter/13-foot PayLoad Fairing (PLF) and two solid rocket boosters. The Atlas booster for this mission was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine, and the Centaur upper stage was powered by the Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C-1 engine.

This is ULA’s 7th launch in 2017 and the 122nd successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

«I want to thank the entire ULA team and our mission partners at the NRO and U.S. Air Force (USAF) who made this, our 26th NRO launch, successful», said Maginnis.

The EELV program was established by the USAF to provide assured access to space for Department of Defense and other government payloads. The commercially developed EELV program supports the full range of government mission requirements, while delivering on schedule and providing significant cost savings over the legacy launch systems.

ULA’s next launch is the Joint Polar Satellite System-1 for NASA and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The launch is scheduled for November 10 at 1:47 a.m. PST from Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

With more than a century of combined heritage, United Launch Alliance is the nation’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 120 satellites to orbit that aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, unlock the mysteries of our solar system, provide critical capabilities for troops in the field and enable personal device-based GPS navigation.

Atlas V NROL-52 Launch Highlights

 

A 4-meter diameter payload fairing, with the National Reconnaissance Office's NROL-52 mission encapsulated inside, is mated to an Atlas V rocket at the Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral's Space Launch Complex-41
A 4-meter diameter payload fairing, with the National Reconnaissance Office’s NROL-52 mission encapsulated inside, is mated to an Atlas V rocket at the Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex-41

National security

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-3 on September 23, at 10:49:47 p.m. PDT. Designated NROL-42, the mission is in support of national security.

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office lifted off from Space Launch Complex-3. Designated NROL-42, the mission is in support of national security (United Launch Alliance/Jeff Spotts)
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office lifted off from Space Launch Complex-3. Designated NROL-42, the mission is in support of national security (United Launch Alliance/Jeff Spotts)

«Congratulations to the entire team for overcoming multiple challenges throughout this launch campaign. From Hurricane Irma schedule impacts to replacing to a first stage battery this week – the team maintained a clear focus on mission success», said Laura Maginnis, ULA vice president of Government Satellite Launch. «NROL-42 marks the 25th ULA-launched NRO mission, building upon our legacy of partnership with the NRO in providing reliable access to space for our nation’s most critical missions».

This mission was launched aboard an Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) 541 configuration vehicle, which includes a 5-meter/16-feet PayLoad Fairing (PLF) and four solid rocket boosters. The Atlas booster for this mission was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine, and the Centaur upper stage was powered by the Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C engine.

This is ULA’s sixth launch in 2017 and the 121st successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office lifted off from Space Launch Complex-3. Designated NROL-42, the mission is in support of national security (United Launch Alliance/Jeff Spotts)
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office lifted off from Space Launch Complex-3. Designated NROL-42, the mission is in support of national security (United Launch Alliance/Jeff Spotts)

ULA’s next launch is the NROL-52 for the National Reconnaissance Office. The launch is scheduled for October 5 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

The EELV program was established by the U.S. Air Force to provide assured access to space for Department of Defense and other government payloads. The commercially developed EELV program supports the full range of government mission requirements, while delivering on schedule and providing significant cost savings over the legacy launch systems.

With more than a century of combined heritage, United Launch Alliance is the nation’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 120 satellites to orbit that aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, unlock the mysteries of our solar system, provide critical capabilities for troops in the field and enable personal device-based GPS navigation.

Atlas V NROL-42 Launch Highlights

Payload for NRO

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-3 March 1, 2017, at 9:50 a.m. PST. Designated NROL-79, the mission is in support of national defense.

Atlas V NROL-79 Launch
Atlas V NROL-79 Launch

«I am so impressed by the incredible teamwork between the NRO, U.S. Air Force our industry partners and the ULA team that resulted in today’s successful launch. The integrated mission team overcame many challenges this flow including delays associated with the Vandenberg Canyon Fire last year», said Laura Maginnis, vice president, Government Satellite Launch. «Tragically, Ventura County firefighter Ryan Osler lost his life en route to assist in fighting the fire. We are honored to dedicate today’s mission to Ryan and his family. Thank you to all of the men and women who worked to deliver this critical asset for our nation’s security».

This mission was launched aboard an Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) 401 configuration vehicle, which includes a 13-foot/4-meter-diameter extended payload fairing. The Atlas booster for this mission was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine, and the Centaur upper stage was powered by the Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C-1 engine.

This is ULA’s second launch in 2017 and the 117th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

ULA’s next launch is the Delta IV WGS-9 satellite for the U.S. Air Force. The launch is scheduled for March 8, 2017, from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

The EELV program was established by the U.S. Air Force to provide assured access to space for Department of Defense and other government payloads. The commercially developed EELV program supports the full range of government mission requirements, while delivering on schedule and providing significant cost savings over the heritage launch systems.

With more than a century of combined heritage, United Launch Alliance is the nation’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 115 satellites to orbit that provide critical capabilities for troops in the field, aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, enable personal device-based GPS navigation and unlock the mysteries of our solar system.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office lifts off from Space Launch Complex-3. Designated NROL-79, the mission is in support of national defense

US Spy Satellite

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 July 28 at 8:37 a.m. EDT. Designated NROL-61, the mission is in support of national defense. This is ULA’s 6th launch in 2016 and the 109th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NROL-61 lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NROL-61 lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41

«Thank you to the entire mission team for years of hard work and collaboration on today’s successful launch of NROL-61. We are proud the U.S. Air Force and NRO Office of Space Launch have entrusted ULA with delivering this critical asset for our nation’s security», said Laura Maginnis, ULA vice president of Custom Services. «Our continued one launch at a time focus and exceptional teamwork make launches like today’s successful».

This mission was launched aboard an Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) 421 configuration vehicle, which includes a 13.1-foot/4-meter-diameter Extra Extended Payload Fairing (XEPF). The Atlas booster for this mission was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine, and the Centaur upper stage was powered by the Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C-1 engine.

ULA’s next launch is the Delta IV AFSPC-6 (Air Force Space Command) satellite for the U.S. Air Force. The launch is scheduled for August 19 from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

The EELV program was established by the U.S. Air Force to provide assured access to space for Department of Defense and other government payloads. The commercially developed EELV program supports the full range of government mission requirements, while delivering on schedule and providing significant cost savings over the heritage launch systems.

With more than a century of combined heritage, United Launch Alliance is the nation’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 100 satellites to orbit that provide critical capabilities for troops in the field, aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, enable personal device-based GPS navigation and unlock the mysteries of our solar system.

In preparation for launch, the NROL-61 payload for the National Reconnaissance Office is mated to an Atlas V rocket at the Vertical Integration Facility (ULA/Tony Gray)
In preparation for launch, the NROL-61 payload for the National Reconnaissance Office is mated to an Atlas V rocket at the Vertical Integration Facility (ULA/Tony Gray)

 

An Atlas V rocket carrying NROL-61 lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

MUOS-5 Satellite

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket successfully launched the MUOS-5 satellite for the U.S. Navy. The rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, June 24 at 10:30 a.m. EDT. MUOS-5 is the final satellite in the five-satellite constellation, which provides warfighters with significantly improved and assured communications worldwide.

Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, June 24
Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, June 24

«We are honored to deliver the final satellite in the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) constellation for the U.S. Navy», said Laura Maginnis, ULA vice president, Custom Services. «Congratulations to our navy, air force and Lockheed Martin mission partners on yet another successful launch that provides our warfighters with enhanced communications capabilities to safely and effectively conduct their missions around the globe».

MUOS-5, like the four satellites in orbit, will carry two payloads in a single spacecraft. One will provide new Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) waveforms with greater capabilities, and one that supports the legacy Ultra High Frequency (UHF) communications systems in wide use among U.S. and international militaries and civil aviation.

In the new satellite, however, only the UHF system will be activated. The wideband function will provide the assurance of a spare in case anything happens to one of the other satellites.

In addition to the five satellites, the MUOS contract with an industry team led by Lockheed Martin also includes four large ground stations in Australia, Italy, Hawaii and the eastern U.S.; the WCDMA waveform; the receiving terminals; and the software to manage the systems.

The Navy's fifth Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) is encapsulated inside an Atlas V five-meter diameter payload fairing
The Navy’s fifth Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) is encapsulated inside an Atlas V five-meter diameter payload fairing

The mission was ULA’s fifth launch in 2016 and 108th launch since the company formed in 2006. MUOS-5 was the seventh mission to be launched aboard an Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) 551 configuration vehicle, which includes a 5-meter diameter payload fairing and five solid rocket boosters. The Atlas booster for this mission was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine and the Centaur upper stage was powered by the Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C-1 engine.

«I am so proud of the team for all their hard work and commitment to 100 percent mission success», Maginnis said. «It is amazing to deliver our second national security payload from the Cape in just two weeks. I know this success is due to our amazing people who make the remarkable look routine».

ULA’s next launch is the Atlas V NROL-61 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office, scheduled for July 28 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

The EELV program was established by the U.S. Air Force to provide assured access to space for Department of Defense and other government payloads. The commercially developed EELV program supports the full range of government mission requirements, while delivering on schedule and providing significant cost savings over the heritage launch systems.

With more than a century of combined heritage, United Launch Alliance is the nation’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 100 satellites to orbit that provide critical capabilities for troops in the field, aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, enable personal device-based GPS navigation and unlock the mysteries of our solar system.

United Launch Alliance’s live broadcast of the Atlas V rocket launching the fifth Mobile User Objective System (MUOS-5) mission for the U.S. Navy

New L5 signals

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF-11 satellite for the U.S. Air Force lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 (Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida) October 31 at 12:13 p.m. EDT. GPS IIF-11 is one of the next-generation GPS satellites that incorporate numerous improvements to provide greater accuracy, increased signals and enhanced performance for users.

An Atlas V rocket, with the GPS IIF-11 satellite
An Atlas V rocket, with the GPS IIF-11 satellite

«Congratulations to the entire team on today’s successful launch of the GPS IIF-11 satellite! Today’s launch was made possible by the exceptional performance and teamwork exhibited by the entire team, including the men and women of ULA, our many mission partners, and our U.S. Air Force customer», said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Atlas and Delta Programs. «GPS is omnipresent in our everyday lives and the system provides a critical service to the all of those serving in our military around the world. All of the operational GPS satellites have been launched on Atlas and Delta rockets and the U.S. Air Force does an outstanding job of operating this essential system».

This mission was ULA’s 11th launch in 2015 and the 102nd successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006. This mission was launched aboard an Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) 401 configuration vehicle, which includes a 4-meter-diameter payload fairing. The Atlas booster for this mission was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine and the Centaur upper stage was powered by the Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C-1 engine.

GPS IIF-11 will join the GPS worldwide timing and navigation system utilizing 24 satellites in six different planes, with a minimum of four satellites per plane positioned in orbit approximately 11,000 nautical miles/12,656 miles/20,372 km above the Earth’s surface. The GPS IIF series provides improved accuracy and enhanced performance for GPS users.

As a result of increased civil and commercial use as well as experience in military operations, the USAF has added the following capabilities and technologies to the GPS IIF series to sustain the space and control segments while improving mission performance:

  • Two times greater predicted signal accuracy than heritage satellites;
  • New L5 signals for more robust civil and commercial aviation;
  • An on-orbit, reprogrammable processor, receiving software uploads for improved system operation;
  • Military signal «M-code» and variable power for better resistance to jamming hostile meeting the needs of emerging doctrines of navigation warfare.

ULA’s next launch is the Atlas V OA-4 capsule for Orbital ATK scheduled for December 3 from Space Launch Complex-41 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

The EELV program was established by the U.S. Air Force to provide assured access to space for Department of Defense and other government payloads. The commercially developed EELV program supports the full range of government mission requirements, while delivering on schedule and providing significant cost savings over the heritage launch systems.

GPS IIF series satellite is encapsulated inside an Atlas V 4-meter payload fairing
GPS IIF series satellite is encapsulated inside an Atlas V 4-meter payload fairing

 

An Atlas V rocket launches GPS IIF-11, the penultimate GPS IIF satellite, for the United States Air Force

Rocket Engine Ban

According to DefenseNews, the Pentagon late last week refused to waive a law banning the use of Russian rocket engines for military satellite launches, rejecting a plea from United Launch Alliance (ULA). ULA, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing that provides spacecraft launch services to the U.S. government, has threatened to skip an upcoming Air Force competition for satellite launches unless it gets some relief from the ban. ULA relies on the Russian RD-180 rocket engine to power its Atlas V rocket, although it also builds a Delta IV rocket powered by U.S. company Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RS-68 engine.

The ULA uses Russian RD-180 rocket engines to power its Atlas 5 rocket (Photo: ULA)
The ULA uses Russian RD-180 rocket engines to power its Atlas 5 rocket (Photo: ULA)

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is the other potential competitor for the Air Force’s GPS III Launch Services solicitation, part of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. SpaceX has invested heavily over the past few years to develop its own Merlin engine to power its Falcon 9 rocket. Proposals for GPS III Launch Services are due November 16.

In response to recent Russian aggression, particularly Moscow’s annexation of Crimea last year, lawmakers in the fiscal 2015 defense budget banned the use of Russian RD-180 rocket engines for military satellite launches after 2019.

The Pentagon remains committed to maintaining two sources of launch services to ensure access to space, according to Lieutenant Commander Courtney Hillson, spokeswoman for the deputy secretary of defense. Department of Defense (DoD) will continue to evaluate the need for a waiver and consider a range of options, including possible sole-source contracts, to keep both companies in business, she continued.

«We are not planning at this time to issue a waiver lifting the prohibition against award of an EELV space launch services contract to a contractor intending to use a Russian manufactured engine, although we will continue to evaluate the need for such waiver, if deemed necessary», Hillson said in a statement emailed to Defense News on October 13.

«We will continue to work with the Administration and Congress to maintain assured access to space, to achieve the mutual goal of a healthy and competitive industrial base, and to ensure a rapid transition away from the Russian RD-180 engine».