It has been used on 90 missions since 2002 by the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket. It has been used in 10 different ways, each one designed to carry satellites of a certain size and weight into space.
One of the Atlas 5 rockets that hasn’t been used yet is set to launch from Cape Canaveral on Friday afternoon. It will carry two satellites that will help the US military keep track of traffic in geosynchronous space.
The Atlas 5 has a single solid rocket booster that gives it a little extra speed off the launch pad. It will leave Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 2 p.m. EST (1900 GMT) Friday to start ULA’s first mission of the year in the year 2022.
Space Force’s Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program needs the fifth and sixth satellites to be put into orbit. This is the mission.
They are meant to help the military track and see things in geosynchronous orbit more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) above the equator.
Four of the first GSSAP satellites were launched in pairs in 2014 and 2016. They were launched on Delta 4 rockets.
In 2017, the military said it had ordered two more GSSAP satellites from Orbital ATK, which is now part of Northrop Grumman.
This Friday, the Atlas 5 rocket will launch two satellites that each measure about the size of a small car. They’re mounted side by side inside the payload fairing.
When ULA does this mission, the Space Force is going to use a special version of its Atlas 5 rocket. This is called USSF 8.
Configuration and Building of Atlas 5 Rocket
When the Atlas 5 is built, it will have a single strap-on solid rocket booster from Northrop Grumman, a payload fairing that is 5.4 meters (17.7 feet) wide from RUAG Space, and an RL10 engine from Aerojet Rocketdyne on the top of the rocket.
First, this version of the Atlas 5 is known as the “511” configuration. The first number shows how much space the payload fairing takes up, the second number shows how many solid rocket boosters there are, and the third number shows how many engines are on the Centaur stage.
The Atlas 5’s first stage will have only one strap-on booster on each side. This will give the rocket asymmetrical thrust as it takes off from the pad.
Atlas 5 missions have flown before with a single solid rocket booster, but those flights used the 4-meter-wide payload fairing option. This option is bigger and can hold more cargo.
The Atlas 5-511 rocket will leave the ground with 1.2 million pounds of thrust from the single solid-fuel booster and the first stage’s kerosene-fuelled RD-180 main engine, which will make the rocket go up.
This rocket can carry up to 11,570 pounds (5,250 kilograms) into an elliptical orbit that is close to Earth. ULA says the Atlas 5-511 can do this.
It can carry about 24,250 pounds (11,000 kilograms) into low Earth orbit, according to data from the ULA.
Lockheed Martin built the Atlas 5 rocket to be able to fly in up to 20 different configurations. This allows engineers to “tune” the rocket’s power and load volume to meet the needs of each mission.
When planning a mission, you can choose to fly a payload fairing that is four meters or five meters wide. You can also fly the Atlas 5 with up to five strap-on solid boosters, or none if the mission doesn’t need them.
ULA was formed in 2006 when Lockheed Martin and Boeing’s Delta rockets merged together.
The Atlas 5 that has been used the most so far is the “401” variant, which has a four-meter fairing and no solid boosters.
There have been 40 flights of the Atlas 5-401 since 2002, when it took off for the first time.
A single solid booster has been used on six flights of the Atlas 5-411 configuration with a single solid booster.
With asymmetrical thrust and steering from the Atlas 5’s RD-180 main engine, the Atlas 5-511 and -411 configurations are the only launchers that are still in use today.