The U.S. Space Force’s fifth SBIRS GEO early warning satellite — encapsulated inside the Atlas 5 rocket’s payload shroud — arrives at the Vertical Integration Facility on May 7. Credit: United Launch Alliance
United Launch Alliance crews at Cape Canaveral have topped off an Atlas 5 rocket for liftoff Monday with the U.S. military’s next infrared sentinel to join a satellite fleet designed detect missile launches around the world.
Ground teams at ULA’s Vertical Integration Facility installed the U.S. Space Force’s fifth Space Based Infrared System, or SBIRS, satellite on top of the Atlas 5 rocket May 7. Since then, ULA personnel have performed a series of tests to verify mechanical and electrical connections between the rocket and the SBIRS GEO 5 spacecraft encapsulated inside the Atlas 5’s payload shroud.
The preparations set the stage for rollout of the 194-foot-tall (59-meter) rocket from the vertical hangar to pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station this weekend. The Atlas 5 will ride on its mobile launch platform along rail tracks for the 1,800-foot (550-meter) trip to the launch pad.
After connecting the rocket with ground systems — such as propellant fluid lines — at the launch pad, ULA will kick ...