The Athena I, known as the Lockheed Launch Vehicle (LLV) at the time of its first flight and Lockheed Martin Launch Vehicle (LMLV) at the time of its second flight, is an American small expendable launch system which was used for four launches between 1995 and 2001. It is a member of the Athena family of rockets, along with the larger Athena II.
The Athena I is a three-stage rocket, consisting of solid first and second stages, and a monopropellant liquid-fuelled third stage. The first stage is a Castor 120, which is also used on some versions of the Taurus rocket. An Orbus 21D motor was used as the second stage on launches up to 2001. If the rocket returns to service as Athena Ic, the Castor 30 would be used instead, which was developed for the Antares rocket (originally called Taurus II). The third stage is an Orbital Adjustment Module, fuelled by hydrazine and propelled by four MR-107 engines, which is used for final insertion.
Prior to its retirement in 2001, Athena I launches were made from Space Launch Complex 6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Launch Complex 46 at Spaceport Florida, and Pad 1 of the Kodiak Launch Complex. Future Athena Ic flights could use the pads at Kodiak or Canaveral, with Launch Pad 0B of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport also on offer. If a launch from Vandenberg is ordered, Space Launch Complex 8 would be used instead of SLC-6, which was rebuilt as a Delta IV launch complex following the Athena's initial retirement.
Four Athena I launches have been conducted, with one failure. Its maiden flight was conducted from SLC-6 at Vandenberg, and lifted off at 22:30 UTC on 15 August 1995. It was intended to place GemStar-1 into orbit, however the rocket was destroyed by the range safety officer after the failure of its thrust vectoring system resulted in a loss of control. The launch was the first from SLC-6, which had originally been built for the Titan III rocket for launches of the Manned Orbital Laboratory, and was later rebuilt for polar orbit Space Shuttle launches. Both MOL and polar Shuttle flights were cancelled before any launches were made from SLC-6. The next Athena I launch was on 23 August 1997, and successfully placed the Lewis satellite into orbit for NASA. This launch also took place from SLC-6 at Vandenberg. The third Athena I launch was from LC-46 at Spaceport Florida, and took place on 27 January 1999. The payload, ROCSAT-1, was the first satellite to be operated by the Republic of China. The fourth launch, which was conducted on 30 September 2001, was the first orbital launch to be made from Kodiak Island. Known as the Kodiak Star mission, it successfully placed the Starshine 3, Picosat 9, PCSat and Sapphire satellites into orbit.