Stacking underway for next Atlas V launch
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — United Launch Alliance has begun assembling the Atlas V rocket that will be used to orbit the U.S. Air Force’s next advanced communications satellite.
Having arrived in Florida on May 17, 2019, the first stage of the 204-foot (62.2-meter) tall Atlas V 551 rocket has since been installed on a mobile platform in the Vertical Integration Facility a short distance from the pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41.
There, five strap-on Aerojet solid rocket motors will be added as well as a Centaur upper stage and a 5-meter payload fairing.
Inside the payload fairing will be the fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-5) military communications satellite, built by Lockheed Martin. The previous AEHF satellites launched in 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2018, all atop an Atlas V 551 rocket.
Liftoff for the AEHF-5 mission is slated for sometime in a two-hour launch window that opens at 6 a.m. EDT (10:00 GMT) June 27, 2019.
This will be the 80th flight of an Atlas V since its debut in 2002 and the 10th in the 551 configuration, which has five solid rocket motors, a 5-meter fairing and a single engine Centaur upper stage.
For ULA, this will be the company’s third rocket launch of 2019. The previous two were Delta 4 rockets launching the NROL-71 and WGS-10 spacecraft.
After the AEHF-5 mission gets off the ground, ULA is set to begin stacking the Atlas V that will be used for the company’s next mission, orbiting Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner for its unpiloted Orbital Flight Test to the International Space Station. That mission is scheduled to launch no earlier than August.
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.