Atlas V readies for long-delayed lift-off with military satellite

Washington DC
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After two cancelled launches, a Lockheed Martin Atlas V, carrying a US Navy (USN) communications satellite, is set to lift-off on 24 February from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the main US space launch site on Florida's east coast.

Launch attempts on 16 and 17 February were scrubbed due to high-level winds and cloud cover. The Atlas V was rolled off the launch pad for several days as the range was used for other purposes, but has since been returned. According to United Launch Alliance, responsible for launching the Atlas V, there is a 60-percent chance of acceptable weather during the new 44min launch window beginning at 5:15 eastern standard time. Should the 24 February launch be called off, ULA will try again the next day.

The USN satellite, called Mobile User Objective System-1 (MUOS-1), is the first of five narrowband satellites set to dramatically expand ultra-high frequency (UHF) data services for the US military. UHF is generally used by units that move frequently and carry minimal equipment, including assets such as special forces teams and aircraft.

The Atlas V will be launched in the "551" configuration, with a 5m fairing, five solid rocket boosters and a single Centaur engine in the second stage. Six Atlas Vs are scheduled for launch in 2012.

The next MUOS launch is scheduled in 2013, according to Ascend’s SpaceTrak database.