Centaur grounded

As a precaution after the failure on 4 May 1999, Pratt & Whitney decided to make an ultrasound inspection of the 25 flight-ready RL-10 engines, which temporarily grounded the Atlas.94 The Centaur resumed flying on 23 September with the launch of EchoStar 5 on an Atlas HAS.95 Meanwhile, because the maiden launch of the Atlas III, which also used a Centaur, had been postponed to 2000, Telstar 7, its intended payload, was shifted to Arianespace and sent up on an Ariane 44LP on 25 September.96^7 As the Terra satellite for the Earth Observing System was to operate in polar orbit, it had to be launched from Vandenberg. The Atlas IIAS that was to carry it would be the first such vehicle to depart from the west coast. Owing to programme delays and concern over the RL-10, the vehicle stood on SLC-3E for 27 months! It was finally launched on 18 December 1999 with the heaviest payload yet carried by an Atlas-Centaur.98

An artist's impression of the Orion 3 satellite.

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