Live coverage of the countdown and the launch of the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket from Panel 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The mission will launch the US Space Force’s SBIRS GEO 6 missile warning satellite into geosynchronous orbit. Text updates will automatically appear below. Follow us Twitter.
This year’s fifth United Launch Alliance mission is scheduled to take off from Cape Canaveral during a 40-minute launch period at 6:29AM ET (1029 GMT). An Atlas 5 rocket will be launched on a $1.2 billion mission with a US Space Force rocket warning satellite.
The countdown is set to begin at 11:09 p.m. EDT Wednesday (0309 GMT Thursday) with the missile operating, the launcher’s guidance system checked, and preparations for the start of the Atlas 5 cryogenic fuel loading.
The mission will be the fifth Atlas 5 flight of the year, and the 95th launch of the Atlas 5 missile overall. It’s one of 22 Atlas 5s left in ULA’s inventory before the missile retired. ULA, a 50-50 joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, is developing the next generation of the Vulcan Centaur missile to replace the Atlas and Delta missile families.
The payload for Thursday’s mission is SBIRS GEO 6, the final satellite in the Space Force’s Space Infrared System. SBIRS satellites carry infrared sensors to detect heat plumes from missile launches, warning of a potential attack on US military forces and government leaders.
The SBIRS GEO 6 satellite, built by Lockheed Martin, weighs about 10,700 pounds (4,850 kilograms) fully fueled for launch.
The first SBIRS payload in elliptical orbit was launched in 2006, and the Army launched the first SBIRS satellite into geosynchronous orbit in 2011. The SBIRS program replaced the Military Defense Support Program, a series of 23 missile warning satellites launched between 1970 and 2007.
One of the infrared cameras on each SBIRS GEO satellite scans through the spacecraft’s coverage area in a U-shaped pattern. With a fleet spread all over the world, the SBIRS satellites and long-life DSP satellites provide global coverage for missile launch detection. Another infrared sensor can target specific areas of interest.
“There is a staring sensor that can be directed and stare at a fixed point,” said Michael Correa, Lockheed Martin’s vice president overseeing the SBIRS program. “For example, you could assign him to look at China because there was something you would probably want to look at in a certain region, or North Korea.
After a few hours of early preparations for the countdown, the ULA launch team at the Atlas Space Operations Center in Cape Canaveral will give a “kickoff” to start the Atlas 5 cryogenic tank at approximately 4:30 AM EST (0830 GMT).
Approximately 66,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen will be loaded into the two-stage Atlas 5 rocket. Centaur’s upper stage Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10 engine burns a hydrogen-oxygen fuel mixture, and the Atlas first stage consumes liquid oxygen with 25,000 gallons of room-temperature kerosene fuel, which was loaded into the rocket Tuesday, shortly after ULA ground crews cycled Atlas 5 launch pad from the Near Vertical Integration Facility.
Two comments built into the countdown, one at T-minus 2 hours and one at T-minus 4 minutes, will occur before the final four-minute countdown sequence to prepare for the launch of the Atlas 5 rocket.
The rocket’s fuel tanks will be pressurized, and the RD-180 engine is ready to ignite at T-minus 2.7 seconds. After building thrust on the main engine, Atlas 5 sent the command to light two rigid Northrop Grumman belt-mounted rocket boosters to power the launch pad on Platform 41 with 1.6 million pounds of thrust.
The Atlas 5 ready-to-launch version on the SBIRS GEOE 6 mission is known as the “421” configuration, with the first number denoting the payload aerodynamic size, the second number representing the number of solid rocket boosters, and the third numbering the number of engines in the Centaur stage.
The SBIRS GEO 6 mission will mark the ninth and final flight of the Atlas 5 rocket in a 421-vehicle configuration, and the final launch from Cape Canaveral of the Atlas 5 rocket’s classic cone diameter of 4 meters (13 ft) from the Atlas nose cone program. Another one, Atlas 5, with a 4m chassis, is scheduled to be launched later this year from California, while the rest will fly with a larger 5m payload streamline.
After liftoff, the 194-foot (59 m) Atlas 5 missile assigned to AV-097 for this mission will head east from Cape Canaveral to target the elliptical or elliptical geosynchronous flight orbit.
The Atlas 5 will exceed the speed of sound in 49 seconds, then eliminate the belt boosters consumed at T+ plus 2 minutes and 13 seconds.
The RD-180 first stage engine will fire up to T+ plus 4 min 12 sec. Six seconds later, the first stage will separate from the Centaur upper stage in the Atlas 5, which will ignite the RL10 at T+ plus 4 minutes 28 seconds. The shell-like payload on top of the Atlas 5 will be discharged at T+ plus 4 min 36 sec, once the rocket flies over the thick lower layers of the atmosphere.
Three burns of the RL10 engine were planned before Atlas 5 launched the SBIRS GEO 6 satellite at T+ plus 3 hours and 1 minute.
Atlas 5’s guidance computer will aim to launch the spacecraft into an orbit between 3,242 miles (5,218 km) and 21,956 miles (35,335 km) in altitude, with an inclination angle of 17.63 degrees to the equator.
The SBIRS GEO 6 spacecraft will use an onboard propulsion system to orient itself into a circular geosynchronous orbit located consistently approximately 22,300 miles above the equator. In this orbit, the satellite’s speed will be matched with the rate of Earth’s rotation, giving the spacecraft’s infrared early warning sensors a steady view of the same part of the planet.
The satellite will also extend the energy-generating polar plates and light shades to begin tuning the performance of heat-seeking sensors.
SBIRS GEO 6 should be ready to enter operational service in early 2023, according to Space Force officials. The satellite is designed for a 12-year mission. Read Mission Preview Story More details on SBIRS GEO 6.
Rocket: Atlas 5 (AV-097)
Expedition: SBIRS GEO 6
Payload: SBIRS GEO 6 . missile warning satellite
client: US Space Force
launch site: SLC-41, Cape Canaveral Space Station, Florida
Lunch date: August 4, 2022
launch window: 6:29-7:09am EST (1029-1109 GMT)
weather forecast: 80% chance of acceptable weather
Recovery from reinforcement: no one
AZIMUTH LAUNCH: east
target orbit: perigee point 3,242 miles (5,218 kilometers); Peak 21,956 miles (35,335 kilometers); The angle of inclination is 17.63 degrees to the equator.
- T-00: 00: 02.7: Ignite the RD-180
- T+00:00: 01.1: take off
- T+00: 00: 06.0: start step/skew maneuver
- T+00: 00: 48.9: Mach 1
- T + 00: 00: 52.5: maximum air pressure (Max-Q)
- T+00:02:13.3: Getting rid of the solid rocket
- T+00:04:12.4: Atlas boosted engine cut-off (BECO)
- T+00:04:18.4: Atlas/Centaur stage chapter
- T+00:04:28.4: Centaur (MES-1) first main engine run
- T+00:04:36.4: Payload Discharge
- T+00:12:55.4: Centaur’s first major engine outage (MECO-1)
- T+00:22:54.6: Centaur (MES-2) second main engine start-up
- T+00:27:38.8: Centaur second main engine outage (MECO-2)
- T+02:57:40.5: Centaur 3rd Main Engine (MES-3) Starting
- T+02:58:38.4: Centaur 3rd main engine outage (MECO-3)
- T+03:01:27.4: SBIRS GEO 6 . spacecraft separation
- 677 launch of the Atlas program since 1957
- Atlas 378 launched from Cape Canaveral
- Mission No. 266 of the upper stage of the Centaur
- The use of the Atlas missile No. 243
- 513 engine production RL10 . launched
- Second engine launch RL10C-1-1
- Flight number 101 of the main engine RD-180
- The 95th launch of Atlas 5 since 2002
- US Air Force/37th Space Force use of Atlas 5
- Solid Rocket Boosters 18-19 GEM-63 . Launched
- The 79th launch of Atlas 5 from Cape Canaveral
- Atlas 5 V launch in 2022
- Flight 137 of the Advanced Expendable Launch Vehicle
- 152 United Launch Alliance flights overall
- 87th Atlas 5 under the United Launch Alliance
- United Launch Alliance Flight 110 from Cape Canaveral
- Sixth launch of the SBIRS GEO . satellite
- Flight No. 57 of the 400 Series for Atlas 5
- 9 Atlas 5 to fly in Genesis 421
- Departure 106 from Complex 41
- 79 Atlas 5 for complex use 41
- 33rd orbital launch overall from Cape Canaveral in 2022
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