Author Topic: Atlas V 501 - Project Kuiper Protoflight Mission - 6 October 2023 (18:06 UTC)  (Read 56544 times)

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Discussion thread for the 1st of 9 Atlas V launches for Amazon's Project Kuiper communication satellite constellation.

NSF Threads for Project Kuiper Protoflight Mission : Discussion
NSF Articles for Project Kuiper Protoflight Mission :

Launch on 6 October 2023 at 18:06 UTC (2:06 pm EDT) on Atlas V 501 from SLC-41.


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Launch of the 2 Kuiper Demonstration Satellites on a dedicated Atlas V, after delays with previously planned launch vehicles.

Original plan in 2021 was to launch on ABL Space System's RS1: https://spacenews.com/abl-space-systems-to-launch-project-kuipers-first-satellites-in-2022/

In 2022 they were moved to the first Vulcan launch as co-passengers with the Peregrine Mission One lunar lander: https://spacenews.com/amazon-to-launch-two-project-kuiper-satellites-on-vulcans-first-flight/

However Vulcan's 1st launch was repeatedly delayed and rumors began in July that they were pulled and will be launched on 1 of 9 Atlas V launches ordered from ULA:

https://twitter.com/sciguyspace/status/1680952620142264323

The official stance as of late July is Amazon "can work with" the new timeline, but they are "looking at all options available":

https://twitter.com/thesheetztweetz/status/1682375261742854144

Then an FCC launch permit just appeared which supports the NET September 26 launch date reports, with some glaring changes listed:

Kuiper test sats on Atlas V

1606-EX-ST-2023


https://apps.fcc.gov/els/GetAtt.html?id=328815&x=.

Quote
The Atlas V 501 will be launched on an easterly trajectory from Eastern Range (ER) Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41). A single Centaur main engine burn with a Guidance Commanded Shutdown (GCS) will place the two spacecraft into a Low Earth Orbit (500 km circular at 30.0 deg inclination). Spacecraft separation will occur at approximately 18 minutes after liftoff. After separation the Centaur coasts for approximately 15 minutes before turning to the second burn attitude. The second burn (which occurs at approximately 40 minutes after liftoff) will place the Centaur into a hyperbolic trajectory to meet upper stage disposal requirements. Centaur end of mission occurs approximately 81 minutes after liftoff.

This is almost certainly referring to the 2 Kuiper Demo satellites, and of them only. The Centaur making a second burn to be disposed into solar orbit is interesting, but it has happened many times before with light payloads. Jonathan McDowell's DB lists the following launches of Atlas V Centaurs being placed out of Earth's orbit despite the payload aren't going there:

2009/10/18 DMSP-F18 (Vandenberg, SSO)
2010/04/22 X-37B OTV-1 (Cape, LEO)
2013/02/11 Landsat 8 (Vandenberg, SSO)
2014/04/03 DMSP-F19 (Vandenberg, SSO)
2014/08/13 WorldView-3 (Vandenberg, SSO)
2016/11/11 WorldView-4 (Vandenberg, SSO)

Since this launch plan is not officially confirmed yet, I will leave this as for the demo mission if Amazon and ULA chooses to use a dedicated Atlas V to lift them. If somehow they stays on Vulcan, this thread can be re-purposed into the launch thread for the 1st set of operational Kuiper satellites launch.
« Last Edit: 10/06/2023 05:34 pm by zubenelgenubi »
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One question pointed out to me by someone else: ULA's Atlas V FAA launch license (for Cape launches which is all it has now) was recently (January 2023) amended to only include the 551 variant:
https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ast/licenses_permits/media/LLO_18_113_Rev_4.pdf

I wonder if that actually hinders such a launch from happening, or at least more paperwork is needed? I suspect Starliner launches are using another licensing method for crew and there's a military launch left (USSF-51) that has the variant never confirmed, with 501 being an option (Tory Bruno once said it's a "repeat mission" payload and the X-37B OTV is a fore-running candidate). So can ULA just launch a 501 without amending this license again?
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Offline Vahe231991

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One question pointed out to me by someone else: ULA's Atlas V FAA launch license (for Cape launches which is all it has now) was recently (January 2023) amended to only include the 551 variant:
https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ast/licenses_permits/media/LLO_18_113_Rev_4.pdf

I wonder if that actually hinders such a launch from happening, or at least more paperwork is needed? I suspect Starliner launches are using another licensing method for crew and there's a military launch left (USSF-51) that has the variant never confirmed, with 501 being an option (Tory Bruno once said it's a "repeat mission" payload and the X-37B OTV is a fore-running candidate). So can ULA just launch a 501 without amending this license again?
The Atlas V 551 variant is currently the only Atlas V variant planned to launch production Kuiper satellites. Even if the USSF-51 mission launches in September, the Atlas V slated to launch this mission will be the 551 variant and the X-37B probably won't be used for the USSF-51 mission.

Offline russianhalo117

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One question pointed out to me by someone else: ULA's Atlas V FAA launch license (for Cape launches which is all it has now) was recently (January 2023) amended to only include the 551 variant:
https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ast/licenses_permits/media/LLO_18_113_Rev_4.pdf

I wonder if that actually hinders such a launch from happening, or at least more paperwork is needed? I suspect Starliner launches are using another licensing method for crew and there's a military launch left (USSF-51) that has the variant never confirmed, with 501 being an option (Tory Bruno once said it's a "repeat mission" payload and the X-37B OTV is a fore-running candidate). So can ULA just launch a 501 without amending this license again?
The Atlas V 551 variant is currently the only Atlas V variant planned to launch production Kuiper satellites. Even if the USSF-51 mission launches in September, the Atlas V slated to launch this mission will be the 551 variant and the X-37B probably won't be used for the USSF-51 mission.
Conjecture. You do not have the employment status nor information to prove any of your claims.

Offline Alexphysics

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One question pointed out to me by someone else: ULA's Atlas V FAA launch license (for Cape launches which is all it has now) was recently (January 2023) amended to only include the 551 variant:
https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ast/licenses_permits/media/LLO_18_113_Rev_4.pdf

I wonder if that actually hinders such a launch from happening, or at least more paperwork is needed? I suspect Starliner launches are using another licensing method for crew and there's a military launch left (USSF-51) that has the variant never confirmed, with 501 being an option (Tory Bruno once said it's a "repeat mission" payload and the X-37B OTV is a fore-running candidate). So can ULA just launch a 501 without amending this license again?

Why is it assumed that it is the X-37B? They've launched dozens of military missions, he could be referring to just a repeat of any kind of military mission they've done already

Offline GewoonLukas_

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One question pointed out to me by someone else: ULA's Atlas V FAA launch license (for Cape launches which is all it has now) was recently (January 2023) amended to only include the 551 variant:
https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ast/licenses_permits/media/LLO_18_113_Rev_4.pdf

I wonder if that actually hinders such a launch from happening, or at least more paperwork is needed? I suspect Starliner launches are using another licensing method for crew and there's a military launch left (USSF-51) that has the variant never confirmed, with 501 being an option (Tory Bruno once said it's a "repeat mission" payload and the X-37B OTV is a fore-running candidate). So can ULA just launch a 501 without amending this license again?

Why is it assumed that it is the X-37B? They've launched dozens of military missions, he could be referring to just a repeat of any kind of military mission they've done already

Last year, Northrop Grumman said that 9 GEM-63 SRM's were scheduled to launch with an Atlas V in 2022. At that time, USSF-12, SBIRS GEO-6, SES-20/SES-21, JPSS-2 and USSF-51 were the remaining launches for 2022. USSF-12 (4), SBIRS GEO-6 (2) and SES-20/SES-21 (3) equated to that total of 9 SRM's to be used, which meant that if USSF-51 was still scheduled for 2022 (which it appeared it did at the time) that it would have been an Atlas V 501, which would have matched with a X-37B mission.
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This thread assumes that this is the launch of the two Kuiper satellties. This makes sense to me.

The remaining 19 Atlas Vs are allocated on the books as follows:
* 1 for DoD  Silent Barker
* 1 for DoD USSF-51
* 1 for Viasat-3 EMEA
* 7 for Starliner
* 9 for Kuiper operations

This FCC document is not for Silent Barket, which launches this month. It's not for Viasat-3 EMEA, which is GEO, not a 300km orbit. It's not for Starliner, which is not a 501. This leaves USSF-51 or some sort of reallocation. The most obvious and reasonable would be to reallocate one of the 9 Kuiper operations launches to Kuiper test, but other theoretical possibilities are:

* It's really just USSF-51
* Viasat is giving up it Atlas for some reason  (e.g., taking time to evaluate the Viasat-3 antenna deployment failure)
* Starliner is giving up an Atlas V for some reason (e.g., committing to a shift to Vulcan prior to Starliner-6)

Yes, I think it's a re-purposed operational Kuiper launch, but can folks who know what they are talking about please comment on these three alternatives?

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One question pointed out to me by someone else: ULA's Atlas V FAA launch license (for Cape launches which is all it has now) was recently (January 2023) amended to only include the 551 variant:
https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ast/licenses_permits/media/LLO_18_113_Rev_4.pdf

I wonder if that actually hinders such a launch from happening, or at least more paperwork is needed? I suspect Starliner launches are using another licensing method for crew and there's a military launch left (USSF-51) that has the variant never confirmed, with 501 being an option (Tory Bruno once said it's a "repeat mission" payload and the X-37B OTV is a fore-running candidate). So can ULA just launch a 501 without amending this license again?

SpaceX has gotten their licenses amended for single launches lots of times.

Offline Alexphysics

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One question pointed out to me by someone else: ULA's Atlas V FAA launch license (for Cape launches which is all it has now) was recently (January 2023) amended to only include the 551 variant:
https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ast/licenses_permits/media/LLO_18_113_Rev_4.pdf

I wonder if that actually hinders such a launch from happening, or at least more paperwork is needed? I suspect Starliner launches are using another licensing method for crew and there's a military launch left (USSF-51) that has the variant never confirmed, with 501 being an option (Tory Bruno once said it's a "repeat mission" payload and the X-37B OTV is a fore-running candidate). So can ULA just launch a 501 without amending this license again?

Why is it assumed that it is the X-37B? They've launched dozens of military missions, he could be referring to just a repeat of any kind of military mission they've done already

Last year, Northrop Grumman said that 9 GEM-63 SRM's were scheduled to launch with an Atlas V in 2022. At that time, USSF-12, SBIRS GEO-6, SES-20/SES-21, JPSS-2 and USSF-51 were the remaining launches for 2022. USSF-12 (4), SBIRS GEO-6 (2) and SES-20/SES-21 (3) equated to that total of 9 SRM's to be used, which meant that if USSF-51 was still scheduled for 2022 (which it appeared it did at the time) that it would have been an Atlas V 501, which would have matched with a X-37B mission.

There's no reason to think that the USSF-51 mission was still scheduled to fly in 2022 when this quote came out which was June 8, 2022. It was already projected to launch towards the end of 2022 when it moved to Atlas V in May 2021, a whole year later it might have already delayed easily into 2023. In fact the Atlas V schedule was already showing no signs that this mission was gonna happen in 2022 when that statement was made by NG. I would even go beyond that and say that it doesn't even appear that it'll happen this year, 2023, at all either.

Aug 30th edit: Well and to the surprise of no one... it does indeed look like USSF-51 is not gonna be this year and will be in 2024 https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=56753.msg2519295#msg2519295
« Last Edit: 08/30/2023 08:27 pm by Alexphysics »

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https://twitter.com/stephenclark1/status/1688589573775900672

Quote
Amazon confirms it now plans to launch the first two test satellites for the company's Kuiper broadband network on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket as soon as next month, shifting the payloads off of the inaugural flight of ULA's new Vulcan rocket.

https://arstechnica.com/space/2023/08/amazons-first-internet-satellites-will-launch-on-atlas-v-rocket-not-vulcan/

Offline Jim

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The Atlas V 551 variant is currently the only Atlas V variant planned to launch production Kuiper satellites. Even if the USSF-51 mission launches in September, the Atlas V slated to launch this mission will be the 551 variant and the X-37B probably won't be used for the USSF-51 mission.

No.  Atlas V has been called "Dial a Rocket".  SRBs can be added or subtracted with no core mods.
« Last Edit: 08/07/2023 06:25 pm by Jim »

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The Atlas V 551 variant is currently the only Atlas V variant planned to launch production Kuiper satellites. Even if the USSF-51 mission launches in September, the Atlas V slated to launch this mission will be the 551 variant and the X-37B probably won't be used for the USSF-51 mission.

No.  Atlas V has been called "Dial a Rocket".  SRBs can be added or subtracted with no core mods.

They've done that quite recently as well. When OFT-2 was delayed in 2021, Lucy ended up using that CCB because its original CCB was having some issues with the RD-180 Thrust Vector Control system. Tory mentioned that they needed to perform some minor work, such as re-routing some cables.
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Online DanClemmensen

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The Atlas V 551 variant is currently the only Atlas V variant planned to launch production Kuiper satellites. Even if the USSF-51 mission launches in September, the Atlas V slated to launch this mission will be the 551 variant and the X-37B probably won't be used for the USSF-51 mission.
No.  Atlas V has been called "Dial a Rocket".  SRBs can be added or subtracted with no core mods.
Thanks, Jim. I had assumed that this is true but I did not know. For those of us with no Cape experience, In which facility are the SRBs attached?

Offline GewoonLukas_

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The Atlas V 551 variant is currently the only Atlas V variant planned to launch production Kuiper satellites. Even if the USSF-51 mission launches in September, the Atlas V slated to launch this mission will be the 551 variant and the X-37B probably won't be used for the USSF-51 mission.
No.  Atlas V has been called "Dial a Rocket".  SRBs can be added or subtracted with no core mods.
Thanks, Jim. I had assumed that this is true but I did not know. For those of us with no Cape experience, In which facility are the SRBs attached?

SRB's are attached in the VIF
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Which Atlas tail number will this launch use?
It would likely be one already on-site?
Are these all at Canaveral presently?
AV-085   Starliner CFT        Yes
AV-089   Starliner-1             ??
AV-100   ViaSat-3.2             Yes
AV-101   USSF-51                Yes
AV-102   SILENTBARKER   Yes

AV-103 and above   ??



Edit/add
SFN Launch Schedule, updated August 20:
Quote
The first two demonstration satellites for Amazon’s Project Kuiper broadband constellation will launch on an Atlas 501 rocket. These satellites were originally scheduled to fly on the first Vulcan rocket.
« Last Edit: 09/03/2023 07:42 am by zubenelgenubi »
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The Atlas V 551 variant is currently the only Atlas V variant planned to launch production Kuiper satellites. Even if the USSF-51 mission launches in September, the Atlas V slated to launch this mission will be the 551 variant and the X-37B probably won't be used for the USSF-51 mission.
No.  Atlas V has been called "Dial a Rocket".  SRBs can be added or subtracted with no core mods.
Thanks, Jim. I had assumed that this is true but I did not know. For those of us with no Cape experience, In which facility are the SRBs attached?

SRB's are attached in the VIF
Yes, all of the vehicle stacking occurs in the VIF. The ASOC is only for checking out the Atlas V CCB and Centaur upper stage standalone. The stacking and all-vehicle checkouts happen in the VIF prior to rollout to SLC-41. This is contrast to the Delta IV HIF which sees the CBC's integrated and checked out along with the upper stage. After this is complete, the combined CBC/upper stage stack is transported from the HIF to the pad which it is raised to vertical using the pad's Fixed Pad Erector (FPE). The GEMs, if used, are attached through the use of the MST crane along with the payload.
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NextSpaceflight (Updated September 4th)
Launch NET October 2023
https://nextspaceflight.com/launches/details/6773

Expected with the delays to NROL-107 / Silent Barker
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NextSpaceflight (Updated September 4th)
Launch NET October 2023
https://nextspaceflight.com/launches/details/6773
Expected with the delays to NROL-107 / Silent Barker

Note added to this listing:
Quote
Launch plan currently unconfirmed.
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Offline GewoonLukas_

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During the live broadcast of the NROL-107 / Silent Barker mission, ULA called this mission the "Project Kuiper Protoflight". (And confirmed that this was their next mission which we already knew)
« Last Edit: 09/10/2023 01:52 pm by GewoonLukas_ »
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During the live broadcast of the NROL-107 / Silent Barker mission, ULA called this mission the "Project Kuiper Protoflight". (And confirmed that this was their next mission which we already knew)

FWIW:
Given previous minimum SLC-41 turnarounds, launch would be NET circa October 10.

Could ULA shave some time from that with revised procedures developed for Vulcan?

Will Amazon Blue pay for a Wet Dress Rehearsal?
« Last Edit: 09/26/2023 07:08 am by zubenelgenubi »
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Tags: Atlas V kuiper ussf-51 ULA 
 

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