Atlas 5 Rocket Launches U.S. Spy Satellites

An Atlas Vrocket blasted out of Cape Canaveral this morning carrying a pair of top-secretspy satellites believed to be used to track ships at sea.

The rocket'sfirst stage is performed perfectly as it arced out across the Atlantic Ocean,cutting across a nearly-clear blue sky. At payload fairing separation, theNational Reconnaissance Office cut public access to the mission control loopsso officials could begin working with the deployment of the classifiedspacecraft.

Themagazine Aviation Week & Space Technology reports that the secretspacecraft are two satellites intended to track ships moving at sea, includingthose that might hint at terrorist activities or Chinese or Iranian navaltactics. They are being launched for the National Reconnaissance Office.

This wasthe ninth Atlas V launch and was the first for the NRO.

Fridaymarked the second attempt to launch the Atlas V in two days. The first attempton Thursday was postponed because of problems with the Air Force Eastern Range'scommand and destruct systems used to protect people and property from errantrockets.

The rocket'slaunch came during the same week as the 50th anniversary of the launch of thefirst Atlas, a fleet of space launchers that began as intercontinentalballistic missiles.

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