By Kendra Chamberlain
Live Webcast of the launch, hosted by ULA:
United Launch Alliance (ULA) will conduct its first rocket launch of 2017 tonight at Cape Canaveral Air Force station in Florida. The flight window opens at 7:46 pm ET (0046 GMT).
UPDATE: ULA successfully launched the Atlas V, and delivered the SBIRS GEO 3 satellite into orbit on January 20.
The launch will take Lockheed Martin’s GEO 3 satellite into orbit. There it will join two other satellites as part of the space-based infrared system (SBIRS), a missile warning system operated by the Air Force.
The Atlas V is part of ULA’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELV) family of rockets, and first debuted in 2002. The Atlas V rockets are not reusable, but they do boast of a 100-percent mission success rate.
ULA’s 400 series of the Atlas V will carry the satellite into space this evening. The 400 series rocket is comprised of two stages. It will be powered off the pad by an RD AMROSS RD-180 main engine, delivering more than 860,000 lbs of thrust at liftoff. The upper stage, called the Centaur, uses an Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C-1 cryogenic engine, offering an additional 23,300 lbs of nominal thrust.
Fueling for the rocket took place earlier this afternoon. The Atlas V’s two engines hold a total of around 66,000 gallons of cryogenic liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.
During launch, the Atlas V will reach the speed of sound at 81 seconds after liftoff. The rocket will reach 10,900 mph and burn propellant at the rate of 1,600 pounds per second before the booster engine is spent.
Booster engine cut-off will occur 4 minutes 31 seconds after lift-off, and the lower stage of the rocket is jettisoned six seconds later. After another 10 seconds, the Centaur engines kick on, then the payload fairing is stripped away, leaving just eight percent of the Atlas V rocket left. After a period of alternating coasting and engine burn, the Centaur will deliver its payload satellite to orbit at 43 minutes 48 seconds after liftoff.
Here’s some more information about the Atlas V launch.
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