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Rocket carries satellites aloft for 'Star Wars' tests

CAPE CANAVERAL - The United States successfully launched a Delta rocket Wednesday in a $250-million mission to deploy two spacecraft to test "Star Wars" anti-missile lasers, military spokesmen said. The McDonnell Douglas Delta 2 rocket rumbled from its seaside launch pad at 11:15 a.m. EST.

The launch "is very very clean and smooth," said Skip Mackey, an Air Force launch controller.

The rocket released the first satellite into orbit about an hour after launch. The second was deployed an hour later, a military spokesman said.

The satellites will measure the aim and intensity of ground-based lasers developed for the space-based Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) system known as Star Wars.

Lt. Col. Terry Monrad, spokesman for Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) office, said the first tests on the satellites will begin within several days.

"They will be full up and operational within 60 days," he said.

The two satellites, which will become the targets of ground-based lasers, carry experiments that will measure the aim and intensity of low-power laser beams fired from laboratories in Hawaii, according to military documents released to reporters.

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