The U.S. Air Force successfully launched an Atlas 2AS rocket from Space Launch Complex 36A on Dec. 5 at 9:47 p.m. (EST). The payload it lofted into space is a satellite designed, built and operated by the National Reconnaissance Office.
Spacecraft separation occurred flawlessly about 30 minutes after liftoff. "This success is a tribute to an outstanding team effort," said Brig. Gen. Donald P. Pettit, commander of the 45th Space Wing. "Everybody had the same goal, which was to get the payload into the right orbit, at the right time. Now we’re waiting for confirmation that the spacecraft is operating as intended. I’m proud to say our string of successful launches continues."
The launch team consisted of players from agencies including the 45th Space Wing; the Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles AFB, Calif.; the NRO, Chantilly, Va.; Lockheed Martin, Denver, Colo.; and International Launch Services, McLean, Va. The 3rd Space Launch Squadron oversees Atlas launch operations at the Cape for the 45th Space Wing.
This mission was dedicated to Dan Potter, a deceased CIA employee who worked at the NRO. Potter was a volunteer in the Partners in Education Program at Cub Run Elementary School, Centreville, Va. More than 700 entries of logo designs were submitted, using the Great Bear — Ursa Major — as their theme, to commemorate Potter’s dedicated work as a mentor at the school. The winning submission, by 13-year-old Samantha Wingo, was depicted on the Atlas rocket’s payload fairing for this mission.
The NRO brought Wingo and her dad to tour the Cape and see the launch. "This was my first launch. The things I’ve gotten to see are so cool," said Wingo, who aspires to be a pediatrician. "I really feel honored by all of this. I didn’t know much about space, but just being here I’ve learned a lot."
The AtlasIIAS roars off Space Launch Complex 36A at 9:47 p.m. Tuesday.