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WASHINGTON — A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket scheduled to launch a $1.1 billion military communications satellite on Thursday will carry an experimental cubesat as a rideshare payload on the back of the Centaur, the Atlas' upper stage.
The main payload is the fifth Lockheed Martin-built Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite, or AEHF-5. For this mission, the Air Force integrated a 12U cubesat on the Centaur's aft bulkhead carrier. The rideshare payload will be separating before the primary payload separates, said Col. Shane Clark, AEHF-5 mission director at the Air Force Space and Missile Systems' Center Launch Enterprise Systems Directorate.
Time - SMC - Rideshare - Payload - Anchor
"It's the first time SMC separates a rideshare payload prior to the anchor mission," Clark said on Monday during a conference call. The cubesat will be used to test orbital debris tracking technologies.
The Atlas V aft bulkhead carrier was originally developed for the National Reconnaissance Office to take advantage of excess capacity on big rocket to put small payloads into orbit. A newly created Launch Enterprise Manifest Office married up the the cubesat with the Centaur for the AEHF-5 mission. Clark said this is the first multi-manifest space vehicle integration executed by the new office.
Mission - Track - Space - Launch - Complex-41
The mission is on track to lift off from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Thursday. The rocket will fly in its most powerful configuration, the Atlas 5 551. The AEHF...
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