A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 successfully lifted-off from America's Space Coast this afternoon on a classified mission to deploy a communications satellite into earth orbit.
Launch occurred on time under beautiful blue skies at 5:35:01 pm EDT, from launch complex 41 here at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Today's seventeenth flight of an Atlas 5 rocket since 2002 saw the main copper booster with an RD-180 engine separate at 5:39 pm, followed by the payload fairing jettison moments later.
The PAN payload is a classified payload, however Cape officials here mentioned to this reporter that it is a military communications satellite. Also, we have learned that it was launched into an orbital inclination of 23.06 degrees to the equator.
The PAN spacecraft later separated from the centaur upper stage about two hours following lift-off at 7:34:26 pm. Initial orbit of the spacecraft was 19,317 x 3949 nautical miles at separation tonight.