The United Launch Alliance is well on its way to launch a communications satellite for the U.S. Space Force this afternoon from Cape Canaveral, Florida – the company’s first flight for the newly-formed military department. The flight is taking place against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced other rocket companies to withdraw from their missions into space.
For ULA, the pandemic has not stopped the company’s ability to advance preparations, despite making some adjustments to protect its employees. In early March, before state governments began issuing locks, ULA CEO Tory Bruno said the company had taken new precautions in response to the outbreak, including: B. Limiting the number of people who could attend meetings and eliminating all non-essential trips Space news. However, trips related to upcoming takeoffs ̵
ULA confirmed that these guidelines still exist and that the company has made it easier for employees to work from home. According to the ULA, a “cross-functional team” also monitors the situation and follows the CDC guidelines. In the meantime, the company thoroughly cleans its facilities daily and quarantines personnel who may have been exposed to people with COVID-19.
ULA does not expect delays in the future. “We are currently not forecasting any disturbances in our manifesto for other product launches or developments,” said a ULA spokesman in a statement. “ULA works closely with our mission partners to master this unprecedented situation. We are working to maintain a fully functional, mission-critical ability to support our nation. “
While ULA can still launch, other U.S. space companies are stepping down or postponing missions as they feel the full weight of the pandemic. Small satellite starter Rocket Lab announced it would delay the upcoming launch from New Zealand next week to “protect the health of our team members, our families, and the community”. In the meantime, the upcoming launch of a Venezuelan satellite by SpaceX has been postponed indefinitely due to restrictions to combat the spread of COVID-19. It’s not just about starting businesses that hurt. Bigelow Aerospace, which creates space habitats, fired its entire workforce this week to comply with the governor of Nevada’s order to shut down all nonessential companies.
Something could change for ULA in the future, but at the moment the company is ready to launch its Atlas V workhorse rocket. The vehicle is lofting the sixth Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite (AEHF-6) for the Space Force. The satellite, located 22,000 miles above Earth, will join the five other AEHF satellites that are already in space and “provide global, survivable, protected communication capabilities for strategic commands and tactical warfighters that deploy on Ground, sea and air platforms operate. ”According to the company. ULA also launched all other AEHF satellites.
The launch of ULA’s Atlas V is scheduled for 2:57 p.m. ET from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The company has a two-hour launch window to launch the rocket. ULA plans to report live on the start from 2:37 p.m. ET. So check back then to see how the Atlas V flies.