| CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., April 10
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., April 10 An unmanned Atlas
5 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in
Florida on Thursday to put a classified satellite into orbit for
the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office.
The 20-story tall rocket, built by United Launch Alliance,
blasted off its seaside launch pad at 1:45 p.m. (1745 GMT).
United Launch Alliance is a partnership of Lockheed Martin
No information about the rocket's payload was released. The
secretive National Reconnaissance Office designs, builds and
operates the nation's fleet of spy satellites.
The rocket was outfitted with a single upper-stage Centaur
engine and four strap-on solid rocket motors, all built by
Aerojet Rocketdyne. In that configuration, the Atlas 5 can
deliver up to about 7,800 pounds (3,500 kg) into an orbit 22,300
miles (35,900 km) above Earth, United Launch Alliance documents
Launch originally was slated for March 25, but a radar
system needed to track the rocket during flight short-circuited,
prompting a delay. The Air Force reactivated a spare radar while
repairs to the damaged system are under way.
The radar is part of a safety system that ensures a failed
rocket will not threatened populated areas. If a rocket leaves
its planned flight path, officials can detonate explosives on
the vehicle so that debris rains down in the ocean.
The radar problem also sidelined a Space Exploration
Technologies' Falcon 9 rocket launch for NASA that had been
scheduled for March 30. The rocket, now targeted to fly on
Monday, will be carrying a Dragon cargo capsule to the
International Space Station, a $100 billion research laboratory
that flies about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.
(Editing by James Dalgleish)