Image credit & Copyright: United Launch Alliance (ULA) of SBIRS GEO-2. CLICK photo for larger view and look below for links and info.

Tomorrow, Thursday April 3, at 1446 UTC (1046 EDT & 0746 PDT) a United launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V-401 Rocket designated (AV-044) will be launching the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program 19 spacecraft (DMSP-F19) for the U.S. Air Force from Space Launch Complex-3 (SLC-3 or SLICK-3) at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California (VAFB) in its 401 Configuration.

DMSP is a space- and ground-based system used to collect and disseminate timely global environmental data to the Department of Defense and other governmental agencies. This environmental data consists of visible and infrared cloud cover and other specialized meteorological, oceanographic, and solar-geophysical information required to support the war fighter. DMSP satellites “see” environmental features such as clouds, bodies of water, snow, fire, and pollution in the visual and infrared spectra. The data can be used to determine cloud type and height, land and surface water temperatures, water currents, ocean surface features, ice, and snow. DMSP data are processed on the ground, interpreted by meteorologists, and ultimately used in planning and conducting U.S. military operations worldwide.

The Atlas-5 (V) 400 Series rocket is a two-stage rocket that depending on the size of the fairing used stands between 57.3 m (188 ft.) and 59.1 m (194 ft.) with a diameter of 12.5ft (3.81m) and consists of an Atlas Common Core Booster with a Russian RD-180 engine and first stage with a United States RL-10 Centaur upper stage built by AeroJet-Rocketdyne. The vehicle is available in 4 different configurations which are built specifically for each individual mission. Its launch sites are Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), Launch Complex-41 (LC-41) or Vandenberg Air Force Base, Launch Complex-3 (LC-3). Performance to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) ranges from 10,470 lb. to 16,970 lb. Performance to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) ranges from 20,650 lb. to 33,360 lb.

4 = 4.2 meter fairing (2-shell).
0 = 0 external solid rocket boosters.
1 = 1 single engine upper (second) stage named Centaur.

MAIN PAYLOAD FAIRING (PLF): The Main Payload Fairing for the Atlas-V-400 series is a two-shell, 4 m (13.8 ft.) diameter fairing and is used to protect the spacecraft & Centaur during its ascent through atmospheric turbulence and into space. Once safely out of Earth’s atmosphere (Or at least most of it), the fairing is pyrotechnically jettisoned via a debris-free actuating system.

CENTAUR UPPER STAGE: The Centaur Upper stage is 3.1 m (10 ft.) in diameter and 12.7 m (41.6 ft.) in length. It consists of a single Cryogenic RL-10A-4-2 (RL-10) Aerojet Rocketdyne Engine that provides 22,300 lb. of thrust and utilizes liquid hydrogen (LH2) for propellant and liquid oxygen (LOX) as an oxidizer with a burn time of up to 740 seconds to include multiple engine firings. There are also four 27-N (Newton) thrusters and eight 40-N (Newton) thrusters used for attitude control. Both utilize hydrazine as propellant. The Centaur Forward Adapter (CFA) provides structural mountings for vehicle electronics within the spacecraft.

COMMON CORE BOOSTER (CCB) (First-Stage): The American Atlas-V Common Booster Core is 106.5 ft. (32.46 m) in length by 12.5 ft. (3.8 m) in diameter and is powered by a single two-chamber Russian RD-180 engine that utilizes Rocket Propellant-1 (RP-1 or highly purified kerosene) as propellant and Liquid Oxygen (LOX) as the oxidizer. It provides 860,300lb. of thrust at sea level and can burn for 253 seconds. The RD-180 engine is modeled after the 4-chanber RD-170 engines used by the Zenit rocket family.

Watch TDRS-L launch LIVE:

United Launch Alliance (ULA) DMSP-19 mission page:

DMSP-19 Mission Booklet:

ULA homepage:




Vandenberg AFB (30th Space Wing):



Aerojet Rocketdyne:

Spaceflight 101 Atlas V-401 data page:

Spaceflight 101 DMSP-19 data page:

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