Set to fly in its most powerful configuration with five solid rocket boosters, a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket rolled out to Cape Canaveral’s Complex 41 launch pad Tuesday in preparation for a planned blastoff two days later with a U.S. military communications satellite.
The rollout two days before launch began around 9:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT) Tuesday. Less than an hour later, the Atlas 5 rocket was in the starting blocks at pad 41 after a 1,800-foot (550-meter) journey from ULA’s nearby Vertical Integration Facility.
The Air Force’s fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency, or AEHF, communications satellite is fastened on top of the Atlas 5 rocket, inside a 17.7-foot-wide (5.4-meter) nose fairing. Built by Lockheed Martin with a Northrop Grumman-made nuclear-hardened secure communications payload, the AEHF 5 satellite will enable video, voice and data links between government leaders and military commanders.
The AEHF 5 spacecraft joins four previous AEHF satellites launched on Atlas 5 rockets in 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2018.
The 197-foot-tall (60-meter) Atlas 5 rocket is set for liftoff in a two-hour window opening at 5:44 a.m. EDT (0944 GMT) Thursday.
More photos of the Atlas 5’s rollout are posted below. See our Mission Status Center for live coverage of the countdown and launch.
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