Saturday, March 05, 2011

Atlas V Rocket Roars Toward Space

A powerful Atlas V rocket roared off its launch pad tonight, hauling a military mini-shuttle on a second test flight for X-37B spaceplanes.

The 196-foot rocket blasted off from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 5:46 p.m. United Launch Alliance officials reported that the rocket performed as expected during the early portions of flight. But as expected, the U.S. Air Force imposed a news blackout after the first stages of flight.

The X-37B is the second Orbital Test Vehicle, or OTV, made for the Air Force by Boeing Phantom Works -- a secretive rapid-prototyping division of the U.S. aerospace giant. The unmanned spaceplane is designed to remain in orbit for 270 days and then perform an autonomous atmospheric reentry and landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base or Edwards Air Force Base in California.

ABOUT THE IMAGE: Click to enlarge the awesome shot of the Atlas V rocket blasting off from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Award-winning FLORIDA TODAY photographer Craig Bailey captured the image from the roof of the NBC building at the Launch Complex 39 Press Site at Kennedy Space Center. Photo credit: Craig Bailey/FLORIDA TODAY.

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