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Atlas 2 launches NRO payload
Posted: Tue, Dec 2, 2003, 11:21 AM ET (1621 GMT)
Atlas 2AS launches NRO spacecraft An Atlas 2AS rocket, performing its final launch from California, placed a secret National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) payload into orbit early Tuesday. The Atlas 2AS lifted off from SLC-3E at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, at 5:02 am EST (1002 GMT). The booster released its payload into a transfer orbit 74 minutes later. No information about the nature of the payload was disclosed, although satellite experts believe the payload was two or three Naval Ocean Surveillance System (NOSS) spacecraft. The satellites are used to track and identify ocean vessels. The launch was the last Atlas 2 mission to be launched from the West Coast: the SLC-3E launch site will now be converted to support Atlas 5 launches starting in 2005.
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