SLC-3E site on US West Coast under refurbishment for spy satellite take-off in late 2005

International Launch Services (ILS) has been give the green light for the first Lockheed Martin Atlas V launch from Vandenberg AFB, California in late 2005. The launch, of a National Reconnaissance Office satellite, is one of 18 flights assigned to the Atlas V under the US Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle programme.

The SLC-3 East space launch complex at Vandenberg is being refurbished to support Atlas V flights. The three flights to date of the latest Atlas booster, the first in August 2002, have been launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

ILS has also won a contract to launch the Worldsat 3 communications satellite aboard a Russian Proton booster from Baikonur in late 2005. The satellite is built by Alcatel Space, based on its Spacebus 4000 bus. ILS will launch the Worldsat 2 satellite later this year. Worldsat is a subsidiary of SES Americom.

Boeing-led Sea Launch, meanwhile, has signed a contract to launch the second Inmarsat I-4 broadband communications satellite in 2005. The agreement includes an option for an additional launch and makes Sea Launch the back-up for the first Inmarsat I-4 launch, planned for late this year. At 5,900kg (13,000lb), the EASA Astrium-built I-4 will be the heaviest commercial satellite yet launched.

The US Department of Commerce says that Lockheed Martin may have to pay $400 million for the damage caused to the NOAA-N meteorological satellite when it was dropped one metre onto the floor of an assembly building. Several bolts holding the satellite had been removed without proper documentation.

Source: Flight International