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Friday, 26 March 2010 23:54

Athena gets nod for small satellite launches


The booster rocket Athena will be placed back into production by Lockheed Martin and Alliant Techsystems as business grows for small satellite launches from NASA, DoD, and others.



Although the Athena rocket was placed in production in 1995, it failed to find an adequate market and was scrapped in 2001.

However, with more demand for small satellites being seen in 2010, such as with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the two companies'”Lockheed Martin and Alliant Techsystems (ATK)'”are re-instituting the established rocket.

When it was produced in the 1990s, the expendable launch system called Athena successfully launched five out of seven times.

Its successes and failures are shown below:

1.    Failure: An Athena-I failed to launch the GEMstar 1 comunications satellite on August 15, 1995.
2.    Success: An Athena I launched the NASA Lewis satellite on August 22, 1997.
3.    Success: An Athena II launched NASA's Lunar Prospector on January 6, 1998.
4.    An Athena I launched ROCSAT-1 for the Republic of China (Taiwan) on Jan. 26, 1999.
5.    Failure: An Athena II failed to launch IKONOS-1, a commercial earth observation satellite, on April 27, 1999.
6.    Success: An Athena II launched IKONOS-2, a commercial earth observation satellite, on September 24, 1999.
7.    Success: An Athena I launched Starshine 3, Sapphire, PCSat, and PICOSat on September 28, 2001.

The Athena is expected to resume launches beginning in 2012.

At that time, two versions of the Athena will be flown. See page two for more details.



Two versions of the Athena will be flown beginning in 2012: .Athena Ic and Athena Iic.

The Athena Ic will use a Thiokol Caster-120 first stage and a Pratt & Whitney Orbus 21D second stage (upper stage).

The two-stage Athena 1c will carry about 1,540 pounds of mass (700 kilograms) to an orbit 100 nautical miles above the Earth

The Athena IIC will use the Thiokol Caster-120 for its first and second stages. Its additional third-stage (upper stage) will consist of the Pratt & Whitney Orbus 21D.

The three-stage Athena 2c will lift over 3,770 pounds of mass (1,712 kilograms) into a 100-nautical mile orbit around the Earth.

With operations beginning in 2012. the rocket is expected to be used about one to two times per year.

The Athena rocket is expected to launch from several launch locations: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, Wallops Island in Virgina, and Alaska's Kodiak Island.

Page three concludes.



For additional information on the re-born Athena program, please read the SpaceflightNow.com article 'Athena rocket reborn under aerospace industry alliance.'

Lockheed Martin's program manager for Athena, Al Simpson, is quoted in the SpaceflightNow.com article.

He states, "We put the vehicle in what I call a hot standby mode after the last time we flew. The two companies have decided to team together and reintroduce the program with some modernization."

John Karas, Lockheed Martin's VP and general manager of human spaceflight, adds, 'The Athena launch vehicle family offers low-risk, reliable launch services at an affordable price. Athena combines both companies' heritage and expertise in launch systems, and makes key system upgrades to provide an enhanced product, skill set and performance capabilities to meet market needs."



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