Falcon 9 next to fly following Atlas 5 launch

posted by Jim Banke - 

Atlas 5 launches with NRO-52 payload

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station this morning carrying a classified satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office. Liftoff from pad 41 was at 3:328 a.m. EDT.

It took five attempts to get this rocket off the ground, a record for the Atlas 5 program. That makes it a new answer for a trivia question, but also underscores the emphasis ULA and everyone else in the business places on safety and mission success.

One scrub was due to a technical problem, while three of the previous attempts were scrubbed by weather, including an attempt just 24 hours ago. But drier air moved into the area and kept any threatening clouds and rain away -- at least long enough to allow the launch.

Due to the classified nature of the mission, ULA stopped providing launch updates once the rocket's payload fairing -- or nose cone -- separated, but all indications up to that point were for a successful climb to orbit.

With this morning's apparently successful launch of an Atlas 5 rocket, the next launch from the Cape will come in two weeks with a Falcon 9 shot from Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 39A.

The Falcon 9 will be carrying a commercial communications satellite into orbit. The launch window extends from 3:34 to 5:58 p.m. EDT.

-- Jim Banke

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