Atlas Launches Secret Payload

An Atlas IIAS rocket lifted off tonight, successfully carrying a national security payload into orbit.

The mission, called AC-167, was provided for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) by International Launch Services (ILS), using a Lockheed Martin-built Atlas vehicle. Liftoff was at 7:17 p.m. Tuesday EDT (23:17 today GMT) from Cape Canaveral?s Pad 36A, with payload separation into transfer orbit 73 minutes later.

Tonight?s flight was the eighth mission of the year for ILS, as well as the fifth Atlas launch. It also was the 73rd consecutive successful flight for the Atlas family in any launch configuration. This also marks the 30th and final flight for an Atlas IIAS model and the 63rd flight and final flight of any Atlas II version. In addition, this was the final flight after 47 years of the Rocketdyne MA-5A engine, which powered the Atlas II booster.

?The Atlas family has launched government payloads for more than 40 years,? said ILS President Mark Albrecht. ?We?re always proud to have a role in assisting in the security of our nation.?

Albrecht also pointed out the perfect record of not only the Atlas IIAS vehicles, but of the entire Atlas II line, which began flying in December 1991. ?This is an awesome accomplishment, being the only U.S. expendable launch vehicle series to have had 100 percent success throughout its entire lifespan,? he said. ?The Atlas team is an incredible group of people who make Mission Success for our customers a way of life.?

This is the second ILS launch this month, following the Aug. 5 successful flight of a Proton Breeze M vehicle, with the Amazonas satellite for Hispasat of Spain and Hispamar of Brazil.

ILS is a joint venture of Atlas builder Lockheed Martin and the Proton?s builder, Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center of Russia. ILS is headquartered in McLean, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C.

ILS has established itself as the indisputable launch services leader by offering the industry’s two best launch systems: Atlas and Proton. With a remarkable launch rate of 66 missions since 2000, the Atlas and Proton launch vehicles have consistently demonstrated the reliability and flexibility that have made them the vehicles of choice. Since the beginning of 2003, ILS has signed more new commercial contracts than all its competitors combined. For more information and highlights of the mission, visit

Original Source: ILS News Release