Atlas 5 sends missile warning satellite into orbit

A new military missile warning satellite was safely delivered into Earth orbit Friday after an apparently flawless launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Liftoff of the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket from complex 41 took place at 7:48 p.m. EST, and its Space Based Infrared System payload was deployed from the rocket's Centaur upper stage about 42 minutes later.

Weather was perfect and there was no repeat of the technical problems with a ground-based liquid oxygen fill and drain valve that prompted the ULA team to scrub a launch attempt on Thursday.

The space shot marked the 75th launch of an Atlas 5 rocket since the first flew in 2002. All have been successful.

Attention now turns to SpaceX and its plans for the remainder of the month.

Officially, the next launch from the Eastern Range is targeted for Tuesday, Jan. 30, between 4:23 and 6:37 p.m. EST. That's when a SpaceX Falcon 9 is to carry a commercial communications satellite into orbit from complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

At the same time, the company still hopes to launch its new Falcon Heavy rocket from pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center before the end of the month. The exact date, however, will depend on how well ongoing launch preparations and tests go during the next few days and weeks.

As of this writing Friday night, SpaceX is targeting a static test firing of its Falcon Heavy's 27 first stage main engines on Saturday night. The results of that brief firing of the rocket's main engines will dictate what will happen, and when, before the rocket is allowed to fly.

-- Jim Banke

Next Launch: Falcon 9 on Jan. 30


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