Tim Furniss/LONDON

Lockheed Martin has selected Swiss company Contraves to supply the payload fairing for the new Atlas V booster. Atlas Vs will form one of two fleets of Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles for the US Air Force. The second will consist of Boeing Delta IVs. The Atlas V will also be marketed by ILS International Launch Services for commercial satellite launches.

Three types of 5.4m (18ft)-diameter Contraves fairings - long, medium and short - will be built for the Atlas V. The three fairings, which will be adapted from the European Ariane 5 design, will be 26.4m, 23.4m and 20.7m long, respectively. A short fairing will be ready next year to fly on the first Atlas V.

The long fairing will support dual communications satellite launches, a first for US launchers, enabling the Atlas V to compete with the Ariane 5 for a share of this prime market.

The fairing structure comprises two half shells, connected by a vertical separation system, made of a sandwich panel with laminated carbon/glassfibre sheets and an aluminium honeycomb core.

Contraves, an Oerlikon-Burle division, was the first to make carbonfibre composite payload fairing structures, to enhance mass-to-payload-volume ratios. Contraves supplied four fairings to the former Martin Marietta for three Titan III launches in 1988.

Meanwhile, the Atlas IIAS launch of the Echostar V from Cape Canaveral has been delayed again, this time to allow engineers time to analyse an avionics unit that failed a factory test. The remote control unit is part of the Atlas launch control system and, although the unit on the booster has passed tests, it is standard procedure to conduct the factory test.

Two other Atlas vehicles have been delayed. The Atlas IIA launch of the UHF US Navy communications satellite was delayed by the need to recheck one of the Centaur RL-10 engines. In addition, the Atlas IIAS, due for an inaugural launch from Vandenberg AFB with the NASA Terra satellite, has been delayed by the necessity to conduct more RL-10 engine tests.

Source: Flight International