Set your alarms tonight ahead of ULA’s Atlas V rocket launch for Space Force’s STP-3 mission

United Launch Alliance is scheduled to conduct the third Space Test Program mission, or STP-3, for the Space Force’s Space Systems Command in the early hours of Tuesday from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Here’s how to the ULA’s Atlas V rocket launch.

The rocket

ULA is the launch provider for the Space Force and NASA for STP-3. ULA’s Atlas V rocket will be used to launch the payload into space. This particular Atlas V is in a 551 configuration, meaning it features a five-meter short payload fairing, five solid rocket boosters, and one Centaur engine.

The mission

Here’s how ULA describes the mission of STP-3:

The STP-3 mission debuts three engineering features designed to reduce risk and accumulate flight experience before use on the Vulcan Centaur, these include Out-of-Autoclave (OoA) payload fairings, an in-flight power system and GPS enhanced navigation.

The OoA payload fairing was developed with a new manufacturing method, an alternative process to cure carbon fiber composites, which allows for a more efficient production process, lower cost and lower system mass while maintaining the same level of reliability and quality.

The Atlas V is also equipped with a new In-Flight Power System (IFPS). This system supplies power to the satellites’ batteries during the rocket’s long duration ascent, a mission more than seven hours. The IFPS will ensure the spacecraft have fully charged batteries when deployed into geosynchronous orbit.

GPS Enhanced Navigation is an additional first flight item that utilizes existing flight computer hardware to provide GPS signals that improve the Centaur‘s navigation system performance, allowing the Centaur to achieve even more accurate orbits.

Atlas V payloads for STP-3 also include NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) and the NASA-US Naval Research Laboratory Ultraviolet Spectro-Coronagraph (UVSC) Pathfinder.

Check out ULA’s Flickr album for loads of close-up shots of the launch vehicle lifting off overnight.

How to watch

Liftoff is scheduled for Tuesday, December 7, 2021, at 4:04 a.m. EST (9:04 a.m. UTC) from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. NASA’s live coverage is scheduled to begin at 3:30 a.m. EST from NASA.gov/live.

ULA will also livestream footage of its Atlas V rocket on YouTube. See the full mission timeline below:

Space Explored photographers and videographers will be on-site with remote cameras set up at the launchpad, so stay tuned for more close-up views of the STP-3 mission and ULA’s next Atlas V launch.

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