United Launch Alliance has released new video from cameras mounted aboard an Atlas 5 rocket that lifted off May 18 from Cape Canaveral to haul a U.S. military missile-detection satellite into orbit.
The video begins with a down-facing camera view showing the Atlas 5 taking off from pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The Atlas’s kerosene-fueled RD-180 main engine and twin solid-fueled boosters combined to produce about 1.6 million pounds of thrust to power the 194-foot-tall (59-meter) rocket off the launch pad.
Liftoff occurred at 1:37 p.m. EDT (1737 GMT) May 18 to begin the first Atlas 5 flight of the year, and 87th Atlas 5 mission since 2002.
The payload on top of the Atlas 5 rocket was the U.S. Space Force’s fifth Space Based Infrared System, or SBIRS, satellite designed to detect and track missile launches that could threaten U.S. and allied forces. The billion-dollar SBIRS GEO 5 satellite was built by Lockheed Martin.
The down-facing “rocketcam” view shows burnout of the two solid rocket boosters, followed about 40 seconds later by jettison of the twin strap-on motors to fall into the Atlantic.
The Atlas 5’s first stage then performs a roll maneuver before shutting down its engine about four minutes into the mission. After stage separation, the Centaur upper stage lights its RL10 engine to continue accelerating into orbit.
The clamshell-like payload shroud on top of the Atlas 5 rocket jettisons moments later, once the rocket reaches an altitude above the dense, lower layers of the atmosphere. The video then jumps ahead to deployment of the SBIRS GEO 5 spacecraft about 42 minutes after launch, while the Centaur upper stage was flying in darkness over the Indian Ocean.
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