Back in business: Atlas rocket launches Navy satellite

- America's Atlas rockets are flying again, launching a communications satellite for the Navy.

The unmanned Atlas V rocket blasted off Friday morning from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The rocket was flying in its most powerful configuration with five solid rocket boosters strapped on, giving the vehicle a 1.9-million-pound kick of thrust at launch.

The ascending Atlas cut a fiery trail through the blue Florida summer sky, its exhaust trail glowing in the bright sunshine.

It was the first Atlas flight by rocket maker United Launch Alliance since March, when a fuel-valve problem popped up on a space station delivery for NASA. The first stage of that rocket shut down six seconds too soon, but the second stage took control and put the Cygnus cargo ship in the proper orbit.

The company grounded its Atlas fleet until it could fix the problem.

This is the fifth in a series of advanced Navy communication satellites for use by the military worldwide.

Atlas rockets have been launching for almost 60 years. John Glenn rode an Atlas to become the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962. The considerably bigger, more powerful Atlas V will be used to launch Boeing's Starliner capsules with space station crews in another couple of years.

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