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The competition heats up: ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket successfully launched a commercial communications satellite on Sunday.
In its sixty-seven flights before Sunday’s launch, the Atlas V has achieved sixty-six successes, including a stretch of fifty-seven missions going back to October 2007. The only mission which was not a complete success, June 2007’s launch of the NROL-30 mission, a pair of naval intelligence satellites for the National Reconnaissance Office – reached a lower-than-planned orbit but the satellites were able to correct for this using their own propulsion. ULA describes the launch as successful from its customer’s perspective, while independent analysts consider it a partial failure.
Though the article notes that most Atlas 5 launches have been for the government, the company has recently been aggressively courting the private sector.