Thursday, May 05, 2011

Atlas V Ready To Launch Friday At The Cape

A 19-story Atlas V rocket rolled out to its Cape Canaveral launch pad today as the U.S. Air Force and United Launch Alliance geared up for the Friday afternoon launch of an advanced missile-warning satellite.

The 189-foot Atlas and its payload -- a $1.2 billion Space-Based Infrared System satellite -- are scheduled to blast off from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 2:14 p.m. Friday. The launch window will stretch to 2:54 p.m. The satellite is scheduled to be deployed about 45 minutes after launch.

The weather forecast for launch is favorable, but a bit iffy.

Air Force meteorologist say there is a 60 percent chance that conditions will be acceptable for launch. The prime concern is the possibility of thick electrically-charged clouds and lightning in the area. Winds from the west are expected to push rain showers, isolated thunderstorms and anvil clouds toward the east-central coast of Florida.

The SBIRS spacecraft will be launched into an orbit 22,300 miles above Earth, where it will provide early warning of Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) launches that might threaten the United States and allied countries. The orbital sentinel will join a growing constellation of SBIRS spacecraft that will provide global coverage for U.S. military commanders executing missions in theaters around the world.

The SBIRS spacecraft are follow-ons to Defense Support Program missile-warning satellites that have been serving the nation since the 1970s.

Join us at noon Friday for interactive Cover-It-Live coverage of the countdown and the Atlas launch. We'll also provide links to a United Launch Alliance webcast live beginning at 1:54 p.m.

ABOUT THE IMAGES: Click to enlarge the images of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that was rolled out today to the pad at Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. You can also click the enlarged image to get an even bigger, more detailed view. Photo credit: Pat Corkery/United Launch Alliance.

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