Space: A Bolt In the Blue

A Bolt In the Blue

Atlas-Centaur rockets have been launching U.S. satellites into orbit for the past 25 years, but last week the sturdy workhorse suffered a rare failure. Less than a minute after lift-off from Pad 36B at Cape Canaveral in threatening weather, a $78 million, 137-ft. rocket disappeared into rain- swollen thunderheads and went out of control. A range safety officer hit the destruct button, and the rocket exploded along with its payload, an $83 million communications satellite. For NASA, struggling to recover from the loss of the Challenger shuttle 14 months ago, the aborted flight broke a string of seven successful launches since...

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