Atlas 5 Rocket Fired into Space with A $1.1 Billion US Air Force Satellite

Atlas 5 rocket fired into space from Cape Canaveral with a $1.1 billion the United States Air Force communications satellite, delivering recent capacity for the military’s voice, video, and data relay networks.

The 197-foot-tall Atlas 5 launcher lifted off from pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 6:13 a.m. EDT. Powered by five strap-on solid rocket boosters and kerosene-fueled Russian-built RD-180 main engine, the Atlas 5 flashed to life and stormed into the morning twilight.

The solid rocket boosters and main engine combined to supply some 2.6 million kilos of thrust to push the Atlas 5 to the sky with the Air Force’s fifth Superior Extremely High-Frequency communications satellite to offer secure, protected links between army commanders and government leaders.

ULA’s launch staff kept the Atlas 5 launcher on the ground for 29 extra minutes Thursday as engineers evaluated a number of technical issues involving the rocket’s GPS monitoring system, the first stage steering system, and a priority related to data patching.

The launch staff resolved all of the technical issues and gave the approval to proceed with the final four minutes of the countdown.

The delay ended up putting the Atlas 5’s launch time at the proper moment within the morning twilight to permit the rocket to climb into sunlight high up within the atmosphere around two minutes into the mission. The daylight illuminated the Atlas 5’s exhaust plume and ice particles within the rarefied atmosphere, making a prominent teardrop-shaped cloud within the sky.