A United Launch Alliance Atlas V departed Launch Complex 41 here at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 5:32 pm EDT, today. Launch came at the end of a twenty minute launch window due to the threat of bad weather across central Florida.
The two satellites called LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter) and LCROSS (Lunar CRater Observation & Sensing Satellite) will begin a multi month mission. LRO will map in high resolution the Lunar surface as NASA works to select a landing sight for a possible 2020 manned landing.
Meanwhile, LCROSS will haul the Atlas' centaur upper stage to Lunar orbit. For four months, LCROSS will swing around the moon before releasing centaur and allowing it to crash into a dark crater at the south pole. When the lunar dust is kicked up from the impact, LCROSS will swing through looking at the chemical make up the soil.
At 6:16 pm, the LRO seperated from the centaur upper stage and flew away from the LCROSS/centaur duo. NASA's Ames Research Center has also taken control of the mission, with the LRO expected to first arrive early on Tuesday morning.