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Final Atlas 3 launches
Posted: Thu, Feb 3, 2005, 8:42 AM ET (1342 GMT)
Atlas 3 launch of MBSAT (ILS) An Atlas 3 lifted off early Thursday and placed a military satellite into orbit on the final mission for that vehicle family. The Atlas 3B lifted off from Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral at 2:41 am EST (0741 GMT); its payload, NROL-23, separated from the booster 79 minutes later. The satellite will be used by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), although details about the satellite and its mission are classified. However, Spaceflight Now reports that amateur satellite observers believe this satellite is the latest in a series of Naval Ocean Surveillance System (NOSS) satellites. The launch is the sixth and final mission for the Atlas 3 family, a vehicle designed to serve as a transition between the older Atlas 2 — retired in 2004 — and the Atlas 5 EELV introduced in 2002. The launch is also the final Atlas mission from Complex 36, which has been used for Atlas missions since 1962. the Atlas 5 uses a new launch site, Complex 41. SpaceX is reportedly interested in using the launch pad for its Falcon series of small and medium launch vehicles.
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