Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket from pad 41 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The mission, known as USSF 12, will put the US Space Force’s Wide Field of View Testbed satellite and the USSF 12 Ring spacecraft into geosynchronous orbit. Text updates will automatically appear below. follow us on Twitter†
Stormy weather at Cape Canaveral prevented the United Launch Alliance from launching an Atlas 5 rocket on Thursday with two experimental US Space Force satellites. The launch has been rescheduled for Friday at 6pm EDT (2200 GMT)
The ULA launch team has paused the countdown for nearly two hours in hopes that weather conditions would clear before the end of Thursday’s launch window, but lightning and cloud cover took too long for the launch to proceed. Teams will empty the Atlas 5 of cryogenic propellants overnight and prepare for another countdown Friday.
The mission, codenamed USSF 12, will be the fourth Atlas 5 flight of the year and the 94th launch of an Atlas 5 rocket overall. It is one of 23 Atlas 5s remaining in ULA’s inventory before the missile retires. ULA, a 50-50 joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, is developing the next-generation Vulcan Centaur missile to replace the Atlas and Delta missile families.
One of the payloads on the mission is the Space Force’s Wide Field Of View, or WFOV, Testbed satellite to demonstrate a new infrared sensor capable of detecting and tracking rocket launches, providing early warnings of a possible attack on the United States by allied countries.
The WFOV spacecraft will travel to space in the upper part of the Atlas 5 rocket loading compartment. A secondary payload, called the USSF 12 Ring, is placed beneath the WFOV spacecraft for launch. It houses multiple payloads, experiments and prototypes, but details about their missions are secret.
A Space Force spokesperson told News All that the entire USSF 12 mission, including payloads and launch services, cost about $1.1 billion.
Following a similar timeline to Thursday’s launch attempt, the countdown will begin on Friday at 10:40 a.m. EDT (1440 GMT). ULA teams turn on the Atlas 5 flight computer, perform checks on the missile’s guidance system, and then configure the vehicle for cryogenic refueling take-off at around 4 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT).
Nearly 66,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen will be loaded into the two-stage Atlas 5 rocket. The Centaur’s Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10 engine burns the hydrogen and oxygen mix, and Atlas’s first stage consumes liquid oxygen with 25,000 gallons of room temperature kerosene fuel, which was loaded into the rocket Wednesday, shortly after ULA ground crews the Atlas 5 had rolled off the launch pad of the nearby Vertical Integration Facility.
Two built-in holds are scheduled during the countdown, one at T-minus 2 hours and another at T-minus 4 minutes, for the final four-minute terminal countdown to prepare for the launch of the Atlas 5 rocket.
The rocket’s fuel tanks are pressurized and the RD-180 engine ignites at T-minus 1 second. After building thrust on the main engine, the Atlas 5 will send the command to ignite four Northrop Grumman strap-on solid rocket boosters to power the launcher from Path 41 with 2.3 million pounds of thrust.
The version of the Atlas 5 launched on the USSF 12 mission is known as the “541” configuration, where the first digit indicates the size of the payload fairing, the second digit the number of solid rocket boosters, and the third digit the number of engines on the Centaur stage.
The 196-foot-tall (59.7-meter) Atlas 5 rocket, designated AV-094 for this mission, will head east from Cape Canaveral to the mission’s equatorial orbit more than 22,000 miles (almost 36,000 kilometers) above to direct the earth.
The Atlas 5 will surpass the speed of sound in 58 seconds and then shed its used strap-on boosters at T+ plus 1 minute, 48 seconds. The 5.4-meter-wide (17.7-foot) composite payload shroud will be jettisoned at T+ plus 3 minutes, 25 seconds, and the Russian-made RD-180 core stage motor will fire to T+ plus 4 minutes, 24 seconds.
The USSF 12 mission marks the 100th flight of an RD-180 engine since it was first launched in May 2000 on an Atlas 3 rocket.
After the separation of the first Atlas from the Atlas, the upper stage of ULA will take over the flight with three burns from its single RL10 engine to first place the two Space Force payloads in a parking orbit and then the mission in higher orbits and on a trajectory to propel the equator.
The WFOV Testbed spacecraft, built by Millennium Space Systems, will separate from the top stage of the Centaur at T+plus 5 hours 49 minutes. An adapter structure is released about 10 minutes later, revealing the Northrop Grumman-built USSF 12 Ring payload for separation at T+ plus 6 hours, 5 minutes.
ROCKET SHIP: Atlas 5 (AV-094)
MISSION: USSF 12
LOAD: WFOV test bed and USSF 12 ring
LAUNCH SITE: SLC-41, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida
LAUNCH DATE: July 1, 2022
HOME WINDOW: 6:00pm-8:00pm EDT (2200-0000 GMT)
WEATHER FORECAST: 60% chance of acceptable weather
BOOSTER RECOVERY: No
LAUNCH AZIMUTH: East
TARGET JOB: About 22,440 miles, 0.0 degree slope
- T-00:00:01.0: RD-180 ignition
- T+00:00:01.0: Launch
- T+00:00:06.9: Start pitch/yaw maneuver
- T+00:00:57.8: Mach 1
- T+00:01:07.4: Maximum Aerodynamic Pressure (Max-Q)
- T+00:01:48.4: Solid rocket booster dropped
- T+00:03:25.6: Charge current tub shedding
- T+00:04:24.3: Atlas Booster Motor (BECO) Shutdown
- T+00:04:30.3: Atlas/Centaur Phase Separation
- T+00:04:40.2: Centaur first start of the main engine (MES-1)
- T+00:10:58.2: Centaur first main engine shutdown (MECO-1)
- T+00:23:13.6: Centaur second main engine start (MES-2)
- T+00:28:41.9: Centaur second main engine shutdown (MECO-2)
- T+05:43:54.1: Centaur starts third main engine (MES-3)
- T+05:46:20.0: Centaur Third Main Engine Shutdown (MECO-3)
- T+05:49:36.0: WFOV testbed spacecraft separation
- T+05:59:03.9: booster adapter separation
- T+06:05:21.0: USSF 12 Ring Spacecraft Separation
- 676th Atlas program launch since 1957
- 377th Atlas Launch from Cape Canaveral
- 265th mission of a Centaur upper stage
- 242nd use of Centaur by an Atlas missile
- 512th production RL10 engine is launched
- 40th RL10C-1 engine launched
- 100th flight of an RD-180 main engine
- 94th Atlas 5 launch since 2002
- 36th US Air Force/Space Force using an Atlas 5
- 14th-17th GEM-63 Solid Rocket Boosters Flown
- 78th Atlas 5 launch from Cape Canaveral
- 4th Atlas 5 launch in 2022
- 136th Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Flight
- 151st United Launch Alliance flight overall
- 86th Atlas 5 under United Launch Alliance
- 109th United Launch Alliance flight from Cape Canaveral
- 35th Atlas 5 . 500 Series Flight
- 9th Atlas 5 flies in the 541 configuration
- 105th launch from Complex 41
- 78th Atlas 5 uses Complex 41
- 28th orbital launch overall from Cape Canaveral in 2022