Photos: ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral

Carrying a sophisticated billion-dollar missile detection satellite for the U.S. military, a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral on Tuesday with 1.6 million pounds of thrust from a Russian RD-180 main engine and twin solid rocket boosters.

The 194-foot-tall (59-meter) Atlas 5 rocket lifted off at 1:37 p.m. EDT (1737 GMT) Tuesday from pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. It was the 87th flight of an Atlas 5 rocket since 2002, and the first Atlas 5 launch of 2021.

The 10,700-pound (4,850-kilogram) infrared surveillance satellite encapsulated inside the Atlas 5’s payload shroud will join the Space Force’s Space Based Infrared System, or SBIRS, constellation in geosynchronous orbit. The SBIRS satellites host infrared sensors to detect the tell-tale heat plumes from missile launches, providing early warning of potential attacks on U.S. and allied forces.

Read our full story for additional details on the mission.

Credit: United Launch Alliance
Credit: United Launch Alliance
Credit: Alex Polimeni / Spaceflight Now
Credit: Alex Polimeni / Spaceflight Now
Credit: Alex Polimeni / Spaceflight Now
Credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now
Credit: United Launch Alliance
Credit: United Launch Alliance
Credit: Alex Polimeni / Spaceflight Now
Credit: Alex Polimeni / Spaceflight Now
Credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now
Credit: United Launch Alliance
Credit: Alex Polimeni / Spaceflight Now
Credit: United Launch Alliance
Credit: Alex Polimeni / Spaceflight Now
Credit: United Launch Alliance
Credit: United Launch Alliance
Credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now
Credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now
Credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now
Credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now
Credit: Alex Polimeni / Spaceflight Now
Credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now
Credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now

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