Go Atlas!

An Atlas V rocket lifts the SBIRS GEO-2 satellite to orbit on March 19. (Photo courtesy of United Launch Alliance, LLC.)

Slicing through a clear late-afternoon Florida sky, the second Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous satellite (SBIRS GEO-2) rode a 19-story Atlas V rocket into orbit on Tuesday, March 19.

“I’m very pleased to announce the successful launch of the Atlas V and its SBIRS GEO-2 payload,” said Ray Johnson, Aerospace vice president of Space Launch Operations, reporting from Cape Canaveral on Tuesday evening. “After a nearly flawless countdown, the vehicle lifted off of Space Launch Complex 41 here at the Cape right at the opening of the launch window at 5:21 p.m. Eastern time. We have completed the quick-look data review, and there were no significant launch vehicle issues. I want to congratulate the Atlas team and the SBIRS team for this outstanding success.”

It was the fourth Atlas V launch in four months, the fastest launch pace in the history of the Atlas V program. Each of the four Atlas V missions since December have lifted off in the opening seconds of their launch windows.

About a hundred people from the Air Force Infrared Space Systems Directorate gathered in the Gordon Conference Center to watch the liftoff. A captain in the directorate led the crowd in the “infrared cheer,” shouting “Go Big Red.” The crowd responded “Overhead! Infrared!”

The SBIRS satellites, equipped with staring and scanning sensors, will upgrade the U.S. military’s infrared surveillance system that continuously scans the globe looking for the heat signature of missile launches.

Aerospace provided complete mission assurance support for the spacecraft and launch vehicle.