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Atlas blasts off
Lockheed Martin's last Atlas 2AS rocket blasts off from Cape Canaveral carrying a classified National Reconnaissance Office spacecraft. (3min 59sec file)
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Salute to pad 36A
The Atlas launch team in the Complex 36 Blockhouse celebrate the history of pad 36A in a post-launch toast. The Atlas 2AS rocket flight was the last to launch from the pad, which entered service in 1962. (2min 09sec file)
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Mission success
The classified NRO payload is deployed from the Centaur upper stage to successfully complete the launch. (1min 56sec file)
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Hurricane Frances
An external camera aboard the International Space Station captured this dramatic view of Hurricane Frances churning in the Atlantic Ocean. (4min 46sec file)
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Monday's Atlas scrub
Stormy weather over Cape Canaveral caused the launch of the Atlas 2AS rocket to be scrubbed on August 30. (44sec file)
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Atlas launch preview
Preview the launch of Lockheed Martin's Atlas 2AS rocket carrying a classified National Reconnaissance Office spacecraft with this narrated animation package. (2min 22sec file)
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Sunday's Atlas scrub
Unacceptable weather conditions force the Atlas rocket's countdown to be stopped at T-minus 90 seconds on August 29. (1min 36sec file)
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Saturday's Atlas scrub
A shortage of liquid oxygen caused by a mis-configured valve prompts Lockheed Martin to scrub the August 28 attempt to launch the final Atlas 2AS rocket from Cape Canaveral. (1min 26sec file)
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The Mission




Rocket: Atlas 2AS (Atlas/Centaur-167)
Payload: NRO
Date: August 31, 2004
Time: 6:49 p.m. EDT (2249 GMT)
Site: Complex 36A, Cape Canaveral, Florida
Satellite feed: Intelsat Americas 5, Transponder 16, C-band, 97° West

Launch events timeline

Ground track map

Launch hazard area




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The Launcher




Lockheed Martin's Atlas 2AS rocket, equipped with four strap-on solid boosters, makes its 30th and final flight during this NRO launch.

Atlas 2AS fact sheet

Rocket's launch record

Archived Atlas coverage




Launch team salutes Cape's pad 36A after final liftoff
BY JUSTIN RAY
SPACEFLIGHT NOW

Posted: August 31, 2004

It was the starting point for dozens of commercial communications satellites, military spacecraft and pioneering space probes, including the first man-made object to journey outside our solar system. But after 42 years of Atlas rocket launches, pad 36A saw its final blastoff Tuesday night.

  Launch
File image of Atlas rocket launching from pad 36A in the 1960s. Credit: NASA
 
Following the booster's Earth-shaking climb into orbit, launch team members hunkered down in the Complex 36 Blockhouse positioned 1,400 feet away from the pad took a moment to salute the historic site.

"We are ready to have a toast for Launch Complex 36A that just launched the last MA-5-based Atlas," the Lockheed Martin launch conductor said.

"Man has never been launched from Complex 36, but this site is very rich with history. Back in May 1962, the first Atlas-Centaur, called F-1, launched from 36A."

The initial launch ended in failure, like many others in the early days of the space program.

"Several vehicles were lost as the rocketeers of the time painfully worked out the problems," launch conductor said.

Another early Atlas-Centaur suffered an engine shutdown as it lifted off, causing the booster to fall back and destroy pad 36A.

"That vehicle set the low-altitude record. But the people and the pad bounced back. In 1966, the world watched as Complex 36A launched Surveyor 1 and 2. The Surveyors made a soft landing on the moon. For the first time, we were all amazed to see up close the surface.

"In 1969, Mariner 7 was launched to study the surface and atmosphere of Mars from Complex 36A. In 1972, Pioneer 10 was launched from Complex 36A and became the first man-made object to leave the solar system having first flown past Jupiter and the asteroid belt."

When the Atlas 2 program was created in the late 1980s, the pad was overhauled to support in the new series of rockets.

"The pad continued to perform, launching payloads that protect our military and our security, as well as providing communications for the world," launch conductor said.

"Having been active for 42 years and 69 launches, we now retire this pad for Atlas 2. At this point, please raise your glass as a salute to the proud history of Space Launch Complex 36A."


An aerial view of Complex 36 shows the two launch pads and blockhouse. Credit: Lockheed Martin
 
Neighboring pad 36B has one launch remaining on the schedule -- an Atlas 3 liftoff early next year. Although pad A is not suited to handle the taller Atlas 3, the complex's systems will remain operational to support the mission.

"We will go into what we call a safe-and-secure on the pad A, make sure that we have the pad in a safe and secure configuration," said Adrian Laffitte, Lockheed Martin's director of Atlas launch operations at the Cape.

"Pad A backs up Pad B with respect to systems and also for spares. So in order to maintain that capability, those systems that are backup to 36B or used as spares will be maintained in a ready condition.

"After that, we would love -- once we launch the last Atlas 3 -- that the blockhouse be used as a museum. There is a lot of history in there. But we haven't quite gotten to that point."

The Atlas 3 flight next year will be the 145th and last launch for Complex 36's two pads.

Future launches will use the Atlas 5 family of rockets that fly from Complex 41.

Spaceflight Now Plus
Additional coverage for subscribers:
VIDEO: FINAL ATLAS 2AS ROCKET BLASTS OFF QT
VIDEO: LAUNCH TEAM SALUTES PAD 36A AFTER ITS LAST LAUNCH QT
VIDEO: NRO PAYLOAD IS DEPLOYED FROM CENTAUR UPPER STAGE QT

VIDEO: WEATHER SCRUBS MONDAY'S COUNTDOWN QT
VIDEO: PREVIEW THIS ATLAS LAUNCH WITH NARRATED ANIMATION QT
VIDEO: SUNDAY'S COUNTDOWN IS HALTED AT T-90 SECONDS QT
VIDEO: SATURDAY'S COUNTDOWN IS SCRUBBED QT
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