September 14, 2012
Space Launch Squadron Celebrates Successful Atlas V Launch
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Members of the 4th Space Launch Squadron celebrated the successful liftoff of United Launch Alliance´s Atlas V rocket Thursday (Sept. 13). The rocket blasted off from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 5:39 p.m. EDT (2:39 local time), carrying a top secret satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and 11 CubeSats for various agencies and universities.
The 4th SLS know the feeling of launch day excitement. This marked their 5th successful launch of an Atlas V rocket from Vandenberg. Major Joseph Howerton, 4th SLS Atlas V flight commander, said prior to Thursday´s launch that Atlas V rocket currently has a 100 percent launch rating. This was Howerton´s second mission as flight commander.
“The Atlas V has an excellent track record and excellent reliability,” he said.
“Not many people understand the details of what we do in the 4th. It's kind of cool,” said Howerton. “I have a younger brother in the Navy, so the satellites we are launching could somehow protect him and make sure that he doesn't accidentally get put in harm's way. I mean that kind of thing makes me feel pretty good.”
The NRO, a secretive federal agency tasked with the development, construction, launch and maintenance of the nation´s spy satellite, has also celebrated 100-percent launch success with 3 previous launches aboard Atlas V rockets this year. NROL-25 launched April 3 at Vandenberg; NROL-38 launched June 20 and NROL-15 launched June 29, both at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The latest mission saw the launch of NROL-36
The launch, originally scheduled for August 2, 2012, had been delayed for nearly six weeks due to an equipment glitch. The launch was shown on ULA´s website, but was cut off shortly after liftoff for security reasons.
Thursday´s launch also carried 11 small cubed satellites, known as CubeSats. The miniature satellites were developed by a number of agencies, laboratories, government entities and universities. They will study weather, space debris, and other phenomena, as well as tracking for maritime shipping.
ULA´s next launch is scheduled for October 4. That will be a Delta IV rocket carrying a GPS system for the Air Force and will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.