EbeneInfo – United States – Atlas 5 rocket with spy satellite on board takes off in spectacular sunset launch

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    By William Harwood

    November 13, 2020/18: 26
    / CBS News

    A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket came to life and flew away from Cape Canaveral in a spectacular sunset launch, setting up a spectacular Friday 13th sky show visible over Florida’s Space Coast

    Nine days late due to problems with ground equipment, the main engine of the Russian-built RD-180 rocket went off with a wave of flames at 5:32 a.m.m EST, followed by the ignition of three strap-on solid fuel boosters, instantly pushing the 20-stage rocket away from pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Station

    Just three kilometers away, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was ready to launch Sunday from the Kennedy Space Center to put four astronauts into orbit for a flight to the International Space Station, the first commercial mission ever certified by NASA and the FAA

    The astronauts launch was scheduled for Saturday, but the flight was delayed due to strong winds expected at the launch site and weather conditions offshore where SpaceX plans to land the first stage of the rocket on a drone of the company

    Either way, with a crowd of journalists on hand to watch the Atlas launch, the rocket accelerated smoothly consuming thrusters and losing weight, going through the speed of sound and the stress region. maximum aerodynamics when exiting the thick, arching lower atmosphere to the northeast

    All three strap-on boosters burned out and fell as expected about two minutes after the start of the flight and the ascent continued with the power of the RD-180 engine

    The 66-foot-long GEM 63 solid rocket engines, built by Northrop Grumman, made their maiden flight, replacing the Aerojet Rocketdyne-built SRM AJ-60A that flew with all previous Atlas 5 booster equipped ULA says new boosters are more economical and easier to handle during ground treatment

    The boosters appeared to be operating normally on Friday, and just over a minute after they were dropped, the two halves of the Atlas 5’s shell-shaped payload shroud peeled off, exposing the satellite to the space environment.

    At this point, as usual with classified NRO missions, the United Launch Alliance has ended its comments on the mission, leaving it to the Air Force to confirm the success of the flight in a setting. post-launch update some time after satellite deployment

    No details on the rocket’s classified payload or its intended orbit have been released, but maps posted by ULA prior to launch showed a northeast trajectory parallel to the U.S East Coast, indicating an orbit tilted or tilted 50 to 60 degrees or more from the equator

    Ted Molczan, a respected independent satellite analyst, speculated that the payload was either a spacecraft from the Satellite Data System, used to pick up and transmit signals from spy satellites in lower orbits, or a satellite signals intelligence used to eavesdrop on targeted communications

    Both types of satellites have used steeply tilted, highly elliptical « Molniya » orbits in the past to monitor Russia and other areas of interest in the northern hemisphere But no details on the final orbit of the satellite launched on Wednesday were immediately available

    First published on November 13, 2020/18: 26

    © 2020 CBS Interactive Inc All rights reserved

    Bill Harwood has covered the US space program full time since 1984, first as Cape Canaveral bureau chief for United Press International and now as a consultant for CBS News He has covered 129 shuttle missions space, every interplanetary flight since Voyager 2’s overflight of Neptune and numerous commercial and military launches Based at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Harwood is a dedicated amateur astronomer and co-author of « Comm Check: The Final Flight of Shuttle Columbia »

    United Launch Alliance, Atlas V, Rocket, NRO, Space launch, SpaceX, Cape Canaveral, Reconnaissance Satellite

    EbeneInfo – United States – The Atlas 5 rocket with a spy satellite on board spectacularly takes off launch at sunset

    Source: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/atlas-v-rocket-launch-ula-nro-spy-satellite-2020-11-13/

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