Within its 100th mission, ULA successfully orbited Morelos 3

On October 2, 2015, United Launch Alliance (ULA) conducted successful launch of Atlas V 421 launch vehicle with Morelos-3 Mexican telecommunications satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

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Morelos-3 mission artwork. Credit: ULA

The launch has become 5th mission of Atlas V in 421 configuration, 57th mission for the whole Atlas V family of rockets, and 100th mission for United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin established in December 2006.

Launch of Atlas V carrying Morelos-3 satellite from Cape Canaveral. Credit: ULA
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Morelos-3 was built by Boeing using a 702HP geomobile platform. It weighs 5325 kg and carries 22-meter L-band reflector for mobile satellite services, complemented by 2-meter Ku-band antenna. The spacecraft is the second of 2 communications satellites that comprise Mexsat satellite system, owned by Mexican Ministry of Communications and Transportation (SCT) and operated by Telecomunicaciones de México.

Mexsat program, primary contractor for which is Boeing, consists of 2 satellites, 2 ground network and satellite control stations, associated systems and user terminals. System will provide 3G+ communications services that include education and health programs, voice, data, video, and internet access. Mexsat provides communications to rural zones, as well as designed to ensure secure communications for Mexico's national security needs.

“Congratulations to Lockheed Martin and Mexico’s Ministry of Communications and Transportation on today’s successful delivery of the Morelos-3 satellite into orbit... Today was an especially proud day for our team as we launched our 100th successful one-at-a-time mission since ULA was formed in 2006. Congratulations to the entire team including our many mission partners on this unprecedented achievement.” Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Atlas and Delta Programs

Initially it was planned that Mexsat satellite constellation would consist of 3 satellites. Unfortunately, the third satellite, called Centenario, was lost in a failed Proton-M launch in May this year. The first satellite, Bicentenario, built by Boeing subcontractor Orbital Sciences Corp. (now Orbital ATK), was launched in December 2012 on Ariane 5 rocket.

Morelos-3 satellite prior to its encapsulation under Atlas V fairing. Credit: ULA
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As we mentioned, the mission utilized Lockheed Martin-built Atlas V launcher in 421 configuration, where '4' means a 4-meter-diameter payload fairing, '2' stands for two solid boosters at the first stage, powered by two Russian-made RD-180 engines, and '1' is for a single Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10A engine that powers Centaur upper stage.

Morelos-3 mission was the 6th Atlas V launch and 9th mission for ULA in 2015. The next ULA launch and again for Atlas V booster – NROL-55 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office – is expected to be held on October 8 from Vandenberg AFB.

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