Saturday, May 07, 2011

Atlas V Hauls Up New Missile-Warning Satellite

A new-generation missile-warning satellite is on its way to an operational station 22,300 miles above Earth after a sporty launch Saturday aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

Its first stage powered by a Russian RD-180 engine, the 19-story rocket sprinted off its Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and arced out over the Atlantic Ocean on its way into orbit.

The powerful Atlas V hauled up a $1.2 billion Space-Based Infrared System spacecraft -- a follow-on to Defense Support Program missile warning satellites that have served the nation since the 1970s.

The SBIRS spacecraft is outfitted with sophisticated infrared sensors that can instantly detect enemy missile launches and then transmit targeting data so the missiles can be destroyed before they reach their intended destinations.

The launch came on a second attempt. An initial try was scrubbed Friday as a result of bad weather.

ABOUT THE IMAGE: Click to enlarge the Florida Today photo of the Atlas V blasting off at 2:10 p.m. from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Photo credit: Craig Bailey/Florida Toay.

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