Atlas Rocket Poised for Blast Off with Advanced Missile Early Warning Spy Satellite


CAPE CANAVERAL – An Atlas V rocket is poised to blast off today, May 6 , with the inaugural version of a new and highly advanced series of US spy satellites which will provide early warning of missile launches to US military forces. The Space Based Infrared Systems (SBIRS) GEO-1 satellite is set to liftoff Friday afternoon at 2:14 p.m. The launch window extends until 2:54 p.m. EDT.

The new satellite for the US Air Force is considered to be one of the highest priority military space programs. Covert intelligence satellites played a key role in hunting down Al Qaida terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden in the recent military strike by US forces inside Pakistan.

This Atlas V rocket will carry the Space Based Infrared Systems (SBIRS) GEO-1 secret spy satellite to orbit for the US Air Force on May 6, 2011. Credit: Ken Kremer

The Atlas V rocket with a Centaur upper stage was rolled out to the launch pad at Complex 41 on Wednesday morning and arrived at 11 a.m.

Twin track mobiles pushed the rocket and satellite combination about 1800 feet from the launch gantry – known as the Vertical Integration Facility – to the pad. Reporters and photojournalists including myself toured the pad for a photoshoot Wednesday afternoon.

The countdown has begun and clocks are ticking backwards for today’s planned liftoff.

Super-cold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen fuel begins to flow into the rocket shortly after noon.

The launch will be webcast by United Launch Alliance at this link:

Weather is the only concern and has deteriorated over the past few days. As of this morning the chances of acceptable weather has dropped to just 30% favorable due to the increasing threat of isolated clouds and rain showers. Weather conditions are currently overcast here in the vicinity of Cape Canaveral and are deteriorating with a good chance of thunderstorms. .

The SBIRS GEO-1 satellite will provide global , persistent, infrared surveillance capability to meet 21st century US military demands in four key areas including missile warning, missile defense, technical intelligence and battle space awareness.

Later this year, Atlas V rockets will launch two high profile NASA Planetary missions to space; the solar powered JUNO Jupiter Orbiter in August and the Mars Curiosity Rover in November.

Beautiful clouds over Launch Complex 41 ahead of SBIRS GEO-1 spy satellite launch. Credit: Ken Kremer