Last night, an Atlas V rocket lofted the Navy’s MUOS-3 satellite into Geostationary Transfer Orbit. The rocket flew in the 551 configuration, which means that there were five solid rocket boosters attached to the core stage, a five-meter payload fairing atop the vehicle, and one Centaur engine on the second stage.
It is the most powerful version of the Atlas rocket, and only the fifth time it has flown. It’s prior launches, chronologically, were New Horizons, in 2006, Juno, in 2012, MUOS-1 in 2012, MUOS-2 in 2013, and MUOS-3 in 2015.
I particularly like the aerial perspective of the rocket illuminating the pad shortly after liftoff; it’s a unique perspective that isn’t easily attainable.
Just under three hours after an 8:04 PM EST liftoff, MUOS-3 reached GTO and separated from the Centaur Upper Stage.
The fourth satellite in the MUOS constellation, MUOS-4, will be launched in August. Five satellites are planned in the series, which is managed and operated by the United States Navy.