Sunday, October 18, 2009

Atlas V launch milestone occurs in foggy California

On a foggy morning today, America's 600th launch of an Atlas rocket occurred on time from Vandenberg, AFB in California on military weather satellite delivery flight.

The first minutes of the 9:12 am EDT (12:12 pm EDT) launch was normal as the United Launch Alliance Atlas V carried the Air Force’s Defense Meteorological Satellite Program F18, DMSP F18, into geostationary orbit.

"This mission is absolutely critical to the warfighter," stated Colonel Steven Winters today following the DMSP's orbital arrival. "Thanks to the hard work and dedication of this team, our fellow service members and allies around the world can carry out their missions with the best weather data available."

The DMSP F18 launched into a polar orbit of 463 nautical miles with an orbital period of 101 minutes each revolution. This new era weather satellite is a space based weather observation platform for the U.S. military and will aid in operation forecast for maneuvers.

Today's Atlas V launch is the 600th launch since the first Atlas lifted-off from Cape Canaveral Air Station in 1957. That Atlas A was a testbed for future Atlas missions. Last month, Vandenberg celebrated their 50th year launching Atlas. On September 9, 1959, the California launch team launched an Atlas 12D rocket.

"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."

According to Vandenberg's 30th Space Wing, "the DMSP payload will be managed by the National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration satellite control center (Maryland), with support from the 6th Space Operations Squadron, an all Air Force Reserve unit stationed out of Schriever AFB, Colorado."

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