A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket is in final preparations to launch the Space Test Program (STP)-3 mission for the U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command. The launch is on track for Dec. 5, 2021 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Launch is planned for 4:04 a.m. EST. The STP-3 mission consists of the STPSat-6 satellite that hosts the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Space and Atmospheric Burst Reporting System-3 (SABRS-3) package and NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) experiment. The launch also includes a propulsive secondary payload adapter carrying additional small science and technology missions.
“STP-3 is a unique mission as the Atlas V will deliver STP-3 directly into Geosynchronous Equatorial Orbit (GEO). This is a highly complex orbital insertion that requires three Centaur burns and precise navigation, a capability unique to the Atlas V. This is our longest mission to date at seven hours and 10 minutes until final spacecraft separation,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs. “We are proud to work alongside our mission partners to prepare to launch this challenging mission and thank them for their outstanding teamwork.”
The mission will launch on an Atlas V 551 configuration rocket, that includes a 5.4 meter payload fairing and stands 196 ft. (59.7 m) tall. The Atlas booster for this mission is powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine. Aerojet Rocketdyne provided the RL10C-1 engine for the Centaur upper stage and Northrop Grumman provided the five Graphite Epoxy Motors (GEM) 63 solid rocket boosters. This will be the 90th launch of the Atlas V rocket. To date ULA has launched 146 times with 100 percent mission success. ULA has successfully delivered more than 145 missions to orbit that aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, unlock the mysteries of our solar system, provide critical capabilities for troops in the field, deliver cutting-edge commercial services and enable GPS navigation.
United Launch Alliance (ULA) is an American spacecraft launch service provider that manufactures and operates a number of rocket vehicles that are capable of launching spacecraft into orbits around Earth and to other bodies in the Solar System. The company, which is a joint venture between Lockheed Martin Space and Boeing Defense, Space & Security, was formed in December 2006. Launch customers of the United Launch Alliance include the Department of Defense (DoD), NASA, and other organizations. ULA provides launch services using expendable launch systems Delta IV Heavy and Atlas V, and until 2018 the medium-lift Delta II. The Atlas, Delta IV Heavy and the recently retired Delta IV launch systems have launched payloads including weather, telecommunications, and national security satellites, scientific probes and orbiters. ULA also launches commercial satellites.