The first stage for ULA’s next Atlas 5 rocket mission was raised on a mobile launch platform Friday at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Credit: United Launch Alliance
United Launch Alliance technicians positioned the first stage for the next Atlas 5 rocket on a mobile launch platform Friday at Cape Canaveral, a key step in preparations for an October mission that will debut a new solid-fueled booster design.
The launch will carry a classified payload into orbit for the National Reconnaissance Office, marking the 86th flight of an Atlas 5 rocket since 2002, and the fifth Atlas 5 launch this year. The mission is designated NROL-101 in the NRO’s numerical naming scheme.
The Atlas 5’s bronze first stage — tail number AV-090 — was transferred from the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to the Vertical Integration Facility just south of pad 41 early Friday. Ground crews at the VIF raised the 107-foot (32-meter) first stage onto the Atlas 5’s mobile launch platform housed inside the vertical hangar.
The first stage will be loaded with 25,000 gallons of RP-1 kerosene fuel and 49,000 gallons of liquid oxygen on launch day to power the rocket’s Russian-made RD-180 ...