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Smile Atlas V launch with GPS IIF-8, October 29, 2014 (50th flight special!)
by Galactic Penguin SST 10-29-2014, 02:59 PM

From flight #1......

to #50!

For rockets, this is actually a much harder milestone to reach than many people thinks to be! Due to the highly fractured state of today's spaceflight transportation market, many famous rockets that has flown actually never reaches this point if we counts different variants using their heritage of the core stage and engines. For example, Japan's mainstay rocket, the H-II series, only clocked up 36 flights from 1994 till now. Even the Ariane 5 didn't cross this line till May 2010, more than 13 years after its first flight.

So when my favorite rocket reaches this milestone today, it's not surprising that I am ready to celebrate this if the rocket behaves! Sadly, today has been eclipsed by something darker in the world spaceflight, especially when taking account that one of our main actors today, the RD-180 engine, is a descendant of the NK-33! Hence I now in the hope that The Probe shall protect this Atlas V rocket and its payload safe.

The honor of today's passenger fell to a good choice - the 8th of 12 GPS Block IIF navigation satellites that continues the replacement process for old satellites in the widely-used system. The new GPS satellite, numbered SVN69 (SVN = Space Vehicle Number), will head for plane E, slot 1 to replace GPS IIR-4 (SVN51, launched May 2000). This will allow GPS IIA-19 (SVN38, launched in November 1997) to be retired, leaving just 4 active satellites from the GPS Block II/IIA satellites that were launched in the 1990s to complete the GPS constellation.

Launch date:
October 29, 2014
Window open:
17:21 UTC / 1:21 p.m. EDT
Window close:
17:39 UTC / 1:39 p.m. EDT
Launch site:
SLC-41, CCAFS, Florida
L*Click here to restart the timer*

Mission Insignia

Launch coverage: (starts 1:01 pm EDT / 17:01 UTC)

GPS-2F (Global Positioning System) or Navstar-2F (Navigation System using Timing And Ranging) satellites are the fourth evolution stage of the second generation of the GPS satellites. Improvements included an extended design life of 12 years, faster processors with more memory, and a new civil signal on a third frequency.

Type / Application:
  • Navigation
  • USAF
  • Boeing
  • 2 Rubidium clocks
  • 1 Cesium clock
  • ?
  • 8.17 ft x 6.67 ft x 7.33 ft (stowed)
  • ?
  • 2 deployable solar arrays
  • batteries
  • 1900 watts (end of life)
Launch Weight:
  • 1630 kg (3590 lb) - max wet weight at launch
On-orbit Weight:
  • 1466 kg (3230 lb) - initial on-orbit estimated wet weight
  • 20200 * 20200 km, 55 inc.)

Launch Vehicle:

The Atlas 5 was developed by Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services as part of the US Air Force Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. Each Atlas 5 rocket uses a Russian-built RD-180 engine burning kerosene and liquid oxygen to power its first stage and an American-built RL10 engine burning liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen to power its Centaur upper stage.

The Atlas 5 launcher will fly in the so-called 401 configuration, denoting a 4-meter payload fairing, no strap-on solid rocket boosters and a single-engine Centaur upper stage.

Gross mass:
  • 338640 kg (746570 lb)
  • 7095 kg (15641 lb) SSO
  • 4950 kg (10910 lb) GTO
  • 58.30 m (191.20 ft)
  • 3.81 m (12.49 ft)
  • 3.81 m (12.49 ft)
  • 3827.00 kN (860343 lbf)

Launch Timeline & Ground Track:

Weather forecast for Titusville, Florida on October 29, 2014 (1 p.m.)

Plentiful sunshine. High 28C. Winds NE at 10 to 15 km/h.

TimeTempsDew PointRelative HumidityPrecipSnowCloud coverPressureWindWeather
1 PM28C17C50%0%0%5%1019 hPa5 km/h NNW Clear

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Old 10-29-2014, 04:05 PM   #2
Galactic Penguin SST
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Old 10-29-2014, 05:25 PM   #3
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Good launch. BECO.
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Old 10-29-2014, 09:15 PM   #4
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Old 10-31-2014, 10:55 AM   #5
Galactic Penguin SST
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Thumbs up

What a beautiful launch!

Believe it or not.....long before the Antares blew up I already had a scary nightmare of one kerosene powered rocket blowing up and falling back on the pad because the oxidizer-rich stage combustion engine decide to quit meters above the pad, exactly what happened with 2 Zenit rockets (Baikonur, 1990 and Sea Launch, 2007). After all, oxidizer-rich stage combustion engines are running at razor-thin margins.

Except that in my nightmare it wasn't about the Antares, NK-33/AJ-26 and Wallops Island. It was about the Atlas V, RD-180 and the Cape's SLC-41.

Well....ULA et al. has proven me to be wrong for yet another time. Yes this may actually happen sometime in the future, but as the Atlas V crossed the 50 flight "coming of age" line, I am sure that even in such catastrophes it will have the power to rise again.

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