An Atlas V rocket lifted off Tuesday evening (Oct. 4) from Florida’s Space Coast, carrying two commercial communications satellites into orbit.
The Atlas V, It coincided with the launch of the twin SES-20 and SES-21 spacecraft from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 5:36 p.m. EDT (2136 GMT) on Tuesday.
The 196-foot-tall (60-meter) missile hit all its marks early. For example, about 2 minutes after liftoff as planned, it dropped three solid rocket boosters, and about 1.5 minutes later it dropped the payload carrier that protects the two satellites during launch. The two stages of Atlas V separated at about T+4.5 minutes.
Related: History of rockets
Let’s relive the flight! #AtlasV #SES20 #SES21@SES_Satellites pic.twitter.com/uDh70XTCadOctober 4, 2022
But much remains to be done, as the rocket’s Centaur upper stage still needs to power the launch guides for SES-20 and SES-21 — circular, near-geosynchronous orbits high above Earth.
If all goes according to plan, SES-20 will launch about 5 hours and 40 minutes after liftoff, and SES-21 about 40 minutes later. The two spacecraft will then use their onboard propulsion systems to circularize their orbits, bringing them closer together around Earth about 22,300 miles (35,900 kilometers) above the equator. ULA mission description (opens in new tab).
Once the satellites are established in those orbits and pass a verification period, they can begin doing what SES-20 and SES-21 were designed to do — providing television broadcast service in the United States for the Luxembourg telecommunications company SES.
“The two spacecraft, built by Boeing with thousands of narrow and controllable beams and the ability to isolate sources of interference, give SES and future customers the ability to extend, extend or even change the satellite’s reach and mission throughout its life,” ULA representatives said in the mission description.
“Proven equipment combined with next-generation technology has created an affordable and lightweight spacecraft that allows two satellites to be launched on one rocket,” they said.
The Atlas V launch is part of a busy week in spaceflight. For example, SpaceX plans to launch into space Crew-5 astronaut mission For another batch of NASA and company Starlink Internet satellites on two separate missions on Wednesday (October 5), as well as two telecommunications satellites for Intelsat on Thursday (October 6).
Three other missions are scheduled for Thursday (October 6), including a Rocket laboratory The satellite, developed by the energy and technology firm General Atomics, will launch into orbit.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 6:15 p.m. EDT on Oct. 4 with news of a successful flight.
Mike Wall is the author of “There (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter. @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or where Facebook (opens in new tab).