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Recon satellite launches at sunset

Robot 2, a 3 feet, 4 inches (from waist to head), 330-pound robot made of steel, aluminum and non-metallics, more than 350 sensors, 38 power PC processors is aboard the International Space Station

April 17, 2011
Fritz Busch - Staff Writer , The Journal

A 45-minute wait with other photographers and reporters at Cape Canaveral paid off March 11, 2011 when an un-manned Delta IV rocket carrying NROL-27 satellite equipment for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) launched at sunset over a calm NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) causeway.

Despite being 2.7 miles away from Space Launch Complex-37, most of the distance over an inland bay, the sound and sight of the launch into a clear, blue sky was stunning.

A loud roar was heard for several minutes as the payload rose slowly over the launch pad before picking up speed.

Article Photos

An unmanned, Delta IV with NROL-27 spy satellite launches March 11, 2011 from Cape Canaveral Launch Pad 27.

The rocket's exhaust plume changed color as the rocket climbed from darkness, through twilight into sunshine.

The plumb changed shape, swirling in circles from the wind.

Several central Florida spacecraft photographers blogged that the launch was among the longest and highest passes they've seen.

Liftoff was delayed due to strong, upper-level winds that calmed just 5 minutes before the launch window closed.

The NRO's mission is to design, construct and operate U.S. intelligence gathering reconnaissance satellites.

It's goal is to achieve information superiority for the U.S. Government and Armed Forces for stronger national defense.

In it's 50th year, the NRO has launched 5 of 6 rockets since January 2010 - it's most aggressive launch schedule in 20 years, according to Loretta Desio, NRO spokesperson.

The launch happened just 6 days after the Atlas V launch of the second Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-2) - mini space shuttle.

Robonaut, a humanoid robotic development project partering NAS and General Motors, will work with a new level of dexterity next to astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS).

In 2007, Robonaut was featured in documentary films "Base Camp" and "Mars Rising."

A year ago, a proposed mission called Project M was announced that, if approved, would land an R2 robot on the moon within the next 2 years.

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Story, photos by Fritz Busch



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