A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket will launch on Thursday, March 26, 2020, from Cape Canaveral with the Space Force̵
A first-class Atlas V rocket jumped off its Cape Canaveral pad on Thursday afternoon, taking the first official mission of the newly formed U.S. Space Force with it.
With a thrust of over £ 2.5million, the United Launch Alliance’s five solid-rocket-powered rocket boosted a £ 14,500 military communications satellite and lifted it about six hours after 4:18 a.m., preparing for a separation from the second stage watch. Launch Complex 41 hosted the mission with clear blue skies.
Although the mission did not start when their two-hour window was opened due to technical problems with the hydraulic floor equipment, the teams avoided the setback and started less than an hour before the window closed.
Atlas V’s payload was AEHF-6, or the sixth and final Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite built by Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale, California. The constellation provides communications support for U.S. and Allied military personnel and includes several Earth observation tools.
A single AEHF satellite is more powerful than the entire MILSTAR constellation that it replaces. These were introduced in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Although it was the last AEHF, it was the newly created Space Force’s first national security mission. The branch is under the Air Force, just like the Marine Corps is under the Navy, and was founded in December.
“Congratulations (to the United Launch Alliance) on today’s successful launch of AEHF-6 – our first USSF National Security Space Launch,” Space Space Commander General Jay Raymond said after taking off. “On behalf of the Space Force and joint warfighter who rely on protected (satellite communication) … thanks!”
Although the Coronavirus pandemic did not delay launch on Thursday, the Space Coast’s next mission – a SpaceX Falcon 9 – was halted indefinitely due to the virus’s resource and travel restrictions. The missile will eventually launch with an Argentine communications satellite once the virus-related effects wane.
In addition, SpaceX was due to launch a further 60 Starlink communications satellites in mid-April. However, it remains to be seen whether the company can fly in the face of the rapidly changing pandemic.
Contact Emre Kelly at [email protected] or 321-242-3715. Keep following him Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @EmreKelly. Support his space journalism by registering at floridatoday.com/specialoffer/.
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