Friday, November 13, 2009

Live at the Cape: Atlas V Fueling For Launch On Tap

BLOGGER NOTE: You can watch a live United Launch Alliance broadcast of the Atlas V launch starting at 12:28 a.m. Saturday.

Just click: Watch It Live

A towering Atlas V rocket is being fueled for a night-owl launch at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as United Launch Alliance aims to give a commercial communications satellite a ride into orbit.

The 19-story Atlas and its payload -- the Intelsat-14 spacecraft -- are slated to blast off from Launch Complex 41 at the air base at 12:48 a.m. The launch window will extend through 2:18 a.m.

The weather forecast remains near-perfect. Meteorologists say there is a 90 percent chance conditions will be acceptable for launch. Meteorologists expect a few scattered clouds and a chance of isolated coastal showers well off into the Atlantic Ocean. Winds from the west-northwest are expected to be about 15 knots with gusts to 20 knots.

All weather criteria at this time are green and are expected to remain that way throughout the countdown.

Engineers now are pressurizing propellant storage tanks at the launch complex and will begin chilling down feed-lines that will route liquid oxygen and RP-1 into the first stage of the Atlas, which is powered by a Russian RD-180 engine. Liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen will be loaded into the rocket's Centaur upper stage, which is powered by a Pratt & Whitney RL-10 engine.

Engineers also are preparing for final flight control system tests and tests of the rocket's Flight Termination System, a series of small pryotechnic devices that would be used to deliberately destroy the rocket if it careened out of control and threatened populated communities surrounding the air base.

A launch tonight would be the fifth Atlas V mission this year and the 19th Atlas V mission overall.

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