The Colorado-built rocket is the culmination
of a one (B) billion-dollar investment and five years of planning.
The test results could determine whether Lockheed Martin's
Jefferson County space systems division wins the trust of its
biggest customer -- the U-S government.
Analysts say Lockheed has tough odds to beat because at least 80
percent of all first launches of new rockets either blow up or land
in the wrong orbit.
And Lockheed's chief competitor, Boeing, is developing its own
new rocket. The Delta Four is expected to launch later this fall.
Both companies are competing for government business because
most commercial buyers are suffering in the economic downturn.
The Atlas Five test launch is scheduled August 12th. It uses
15-thousand fewer parts than previous versions and can be built in
ten months compared to 18 months for older rockets. It also has
twice the lifting power of previous rockets, with the capability to
lift 65-thousand pounds into orbit.