Adding to the Atlas rocket program's accomplished five decade legacy, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V successfully launched the U.S. Air Force's Defense Meteorological Satellite Program F18 (DMSP F18) mission from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, at 9:12 a.m. PDT, October 18. The DMSP F18 spacecraft was built for the Air Force by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company in Sunnyvale, Calif.
Credit: United Launch Alliance
This mission marked the 600th launch of an Atlas vehicle, carrying on a proud tradition that began with the first Atlas A rocket launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., in 1957. For the Atlas V, today's success was the 18th for the program, with a 100 percent mission success rate. The inaugural launch for the latest Atlas V configuration occurred from CCAFS on Aug. 21, 2002.
"This is a proud moment in the 52 year history of the Atlas program and for United Launch Alliance," said Mark Wilkins, ULA vice president, Atlas Product Line. "First, I want to thank our Air Force customer for trusting ULA to launch this important mission. I'd also like to recognize all the men and women who have served on the Atlas team since 1957. Their determination, dedication and attention to detail have made this significant milestone possible. Combining our Atlas and Delta launch vehicle program's more than 100 years of experience gives ULA the most experienced space launch team in the world."
During the program's history, 315 launches have taken place from CCAFS with 285 missions, including today's launch, launching from Vandenberg. While the Atlas program has launched numerous important missions, it may be most famous for launching Mercury astronauts John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra and Gordon Cooper during the early days of human space flight. Atlas has also launched several Moon and planetary missions including the recent Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission on June 18.
This mission, designated AV-017, was launched aboard an Atlas V 401 configuration using the Common Core Booster powered by the RD-180 engine. The 17 previous Atlas V launches included three missions each for the Air Force, NASA, and NRO along with eight for commercial customers.
ULA's next launch, currently scheduled for Nov. 14, is the Atlas V IntelSat-14 mission from Space Launch Complex-41 at CCAFS.
At right, an Atlas A launches from Cape Canaveral in 1957; at left, an Atlas V launches through the fog on the 600th Atlas mission in 2009.