Athena Rocket on List to Launch NASA Satellites


NASA announced yesterday that the Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT) and Alliant Techsystems (NYSE:ATK) Athena Launch Vehicle Family has been selected to become part of the agency’s Launch Services II contract.

Vehicles selected fulfill NASA’s requirements for domestic launch services with a minimum performance capability of placing a 250-kilogram (550 pound) spacecraft in a 200-kilometer low Earth orbit (LEO) at an inclination of 28.5 degrees. Athena can carry payloads up to 1800 kilograms (3968 pounds) to LEO. Utilizing a large volume 92-inch diameter payload fairing, the vehicle accommodates a wide range of satellites and missions as well as lunar missions.

Under this contract the rockets could be launched from east and west coast launch sites, such as Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and Kodiak Launch Complex, Alaska.

“We are pleased to be able to make Athena available for important NASA missions,” said John Karas, vice president and general manager, Human Space Flight, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company.  “Athena combines both companies’ heritage and expertise in launch systems, and makes key system upgrades to provide enhanced product and performance capabilities to meet NASA’s needs.”

In March, Lockheed Martin and ATK announced a strategic teaming agreement to offer launch services utilizing upgraded and modernized Athena rockets.  Lockheed Martin provides mission management, payload integration, and launch operations, while ATK provides integrated vehicle propulsion, launch vehicle structures, booster integration and launch site operations.

These second-generation launch vehicles include the two-stage Athena Ic and three-stage Athena IIc launch vehicles. The rockets use the same flight-proven ATK CASTOR 120® for Stage I and Stage II.  The modernized launch vehicles benefit from the latest technology of a newly-developed and ground-tested CASTOR® 30 for their upper stage, and Lockheed Martin’s modernized electronic systems.  Both solid rocket motors are in production and are being used on other launch vehicles in the industry.

“As the newest addition to NASA’s cadre of launch vehicles, Athena offers low-risk, reliable launch services at an affordable price,” said Scott Lehr, vice president and general manager, Strategic and Commercial Systems, ATK Aerospace Systems.

First-generation Athena I and II rockets became operational in 1995 and have flown seven times.  Athena II launched the Lunar Prospector to the moon in 1998 and remains the only commercially developed launch vehicle to fly a lunar mission.

About Lockheed Martin

Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin is a global security company that employs about 136,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The Corporation’s 2009 sales from continuing operations were $44.5 billion. News and information about Lockheed Martin can be found at

About ATK

ATK is a premier aerospace and defense company with more than 18,000 employees in 24 states, Puerto Rico and internationally, and revenues of approximately $4.8 billion. News and information can be found on the Internet at