Liftoff of ULA’s Atlas V rocket came at 7:42 p.m. Jan. 20 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
A planned launch the previous day had to be scrubbed after an unspecified instrumentation snafu during countdown; then a nearby airplane fouled the launch range through the remainder of the day’s launch window. The mission originally was set for May before repeated postponements by issues including component-supplier woes.
The Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous satellite, or SBIRS GEO 3, was launched using a single-engine Centaur upper stage with no solid rocket boosters.
A ULA Atlas V launched SBIRS-GEO2 from Cape Canaveral in March 2013. That followed the launch of GEO 1 in 2011 in a $19 billion program to replace the dated previous early-warning system with a new constellation of missile-detection sats.
The SBIRS sats were manufactured by Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin. Centennial, Colo.-based ULA is a 50-50 joint venture of Lockheed and Boeing, which is headquartered in Chicago. The satellites are part of a national security system encompassing missile warning, missile defense, technical intelligence and battlespace awareness, or space-based intelligence on enemy capabilities.
ULA is set to launch a reconnaissance satellite for the U.S. Air Force from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Jan. 26, using an Atlas V. ULA has launched a series of spy sats for the Air Force using either the Atlas V or Delta IV rockets.
The latest Atlas V launch was the rocket’s 69th mission since its introduction in 2002.