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Final Atlas 2 launch a success
Posted: Wed, Sep 1, 2004, 11:20 AM ET (1520 GMT)
Atlas 2AS launch of NROL-1 (ILS) After four days of delays, the final Atlas 2 booster lifted off Tuesday evening to place a classified satellite into orbit. The Atlas 2AS lifted off from Pad 36A at 7:17 pm EDT (2317 GMT) Tuesday, after problems with valves on the launch pad slowed the topping off of the liquid oxygen tanks on the Atlas's first stage. The rocket's payload, a classified satellite known only as NROL-1, separated from the booster 73 minutes after launch after being placed into what appears to be a Molniya-like inclined, elliptical orbit. While the National Reconnaissance Office, which operates the payload, would not comment on the purpose of the spacecraft, outside experts suspect that it is a data relay satellite dubbed Quasar designed to transfer data from reconnaissance satellites. The launch was the last for the Atlas 2 family of boosters, which retired with a perfect record of 63 successful launches in as many attempts, dating back to 1991. The Atlas 2 is being retired to make way for the more powerful Atlas 5.
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