US launches advanced satellite in 1st Space Force national security mission
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket took to the skies Thursday afternoon (March 26), delivering a highly advanced communications satellite to orbit for the U.S. Space Force.
The rocket, outfitted with five strap-on solid rocket boosters, leapt off the pad from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station here at 4:18 p.m. EDT (2018 GMT), near the middle of a planned two-hour window.
Perched atop the rocket was the sixth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-6) satellite. AEHF-6 is the final satellite in the AEHF constellation, and it will provide jam-proof communications — including real-time video — between U.S. national leadership and deployed military forces.
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the AEHF-6 military communications satellite launches from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on March 26, 2020. (Image credit: United Launch Alliance)
The $1.1 billion AEHF constellation is built by Lockheed Martin and consists of six secure military communications satellites that will replace the military's aging Milstar constellation. Working in tandem, the satellites will provide coverage from geostationary Earth orbit, about 22,200 miles (35,700 kilometers) above the planet. This orbit allows spacecraft to drift along in sync with Earth's rotation, providing constant coverage over the same part of the planet.
Today's launch marks the 83rd flight of an Atlas V and the 11th overall in the 551 configuration. The most powerful version of the Atlas V, the 551 comes with five solid rocket boosters, a 16.5-foot-wide (5 meters) payload fairing and a single engine Centaur upper stage.
The 13,600-lb. (6,168 kilograms) AEHF-6 is the first National Security Space payload to launch under the recently established U.S. Space Force, which was signed into existence by President Donald Trump in December 2019. Just like the Marine Corps is part of the Department of the Navy, the Space Force will operate under the Department of the Air Force.Report a Typo
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