An Atlas V rocket lifted off Tuesday evening (October 4) from Florida’s space coast, carrying two commercial communications satellites into orbit.
The Atlas V, topped by twin spacecraft SES-20 and SES-21, launched Tuesday at 5:36 p.m. EDT (2136 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
The 196-foot-tall (60-meter) rocket hit all of its targets early. It jettisoned its three solid rocket boosters about 2 minutes after liftoff as scheduled, for example, and discarded its payload fairing, which protected the two satellites during launch, about 1.5 minutes later. And the two stages of Atlas V separated at about T+4.5 minutes.
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But there’s still a lot of work to do, as the rocket’s Centaur upper stage still needs to feed to the deployment destinations of SES-20 and SES-21 – near-circular, near-geosynchronous orbits above the Earth. Earth.
If all goes as planned, SES-20 will deploy about 5 hours and 40 minutes after liftoff, and SES-21 will follow about 40 minutes later. The two spacecraft will then use their onboard propulsion systems to circularize their orbits, which will send them zooming around Earth about 22,300 miles (35,900 kilometers) above the equator, according to a Description of the ULA mission (opens in a new tab).
Once the satellites are established in these orbits and have gone through a period of verification, SES-20 and SES-21 can begin doing what they were built to do: provide television broadcasting service across the United States for the Luxembourg telecommunications company SES.
“Built by Boeing with thousands of narrow, steerable beams and the ability to isolate sources of interference, the two spacecraft offer SES and future customers the ability to extend, extend or even modify the area coverage and the mission of a satellite throughout its life,” the ULA representatives wrote. in the job description.
“Proven hardware combined with next-generation technology has created an affordable, lightweight spacecraft, allowing two satellites to launch on a single rocket,” they added.
The Atlas V launch is part of a busy week of spaceflight. For example, SpaceX plans to launch the Crew-5 Astronaut Mission for NASA and another batch of the company’s Starlink internet satellites on two separate missions on Wednesday (October 5), as well as two telecommunications satellites for the company Intelsat on Thursday (October 6).
Three other missions are also scheduled for Thursday, October 6, including one rocket lab launch that will send a satellite built by the energy and technology company General Atomics into orbit.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 6:15 p.m. EDT Oct. 4 with news of the successful liftoff.
Mike Wall is the author of “The low (opens in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Or on Facebook (opens in a new tab).
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