Space Force Launches Its 1st Mission With Virus Precautions
Mar 28 2020
A powerful Atlas Vrocket hoisted the 13,600-pound (6,168 kilogram) satellite. That's the new space-focused arm of the US military that was officially formed a year ago, in response to what the administration has characterized as a growing need to ensure America's assets in space are properly defended.
The newest branch of the United States military, established by President Trump, goes into space for the first time.
Atlas V rocket carrying the sixth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) communications satellite for the U.S. Space Force's Space and Missile Systems Center lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 on March 26 at 4:18 p.m. EDT. "This launch extends that communication into a timeframe beyond 2030".
SMC procured AEHF-6 from Lockheed Martin Space as a part of a Firm Fixed Price Contract block buy, which included AEHF-5, for a total cost of $2.15 billion for both satellites.
"We are proud to launch the first National Security Space mission for the US Space Force and look forward to delivering the final AEHF asset to support our nation's national defence and the warfighter community", ULA Vice President for Government and Commercial Programs Gary Wentz said in an earlier press release. The AEHF-6 is one of six satellites that are now circling Earth; the first five were launched in August 2010, May 2012, September 2013, October 2018 and August 2019.
The White House announced the creation of the new Space Force military arm in December, with President Donald Trump calling space "the world's newest warfighting domain."
After these critical events, SMC will be ready to transfer Satellite Control Authority of AEHF-6 to Space Operations Command, which is expected to occur in six to eight months after launch. 45th Space Shuttle, tweet from Cape Canaveral. The satellite system, developed by Lockheed Martin, has upgraded anti-jamming capability.
Thursday's launch provided some rare action for space fans in these odd lockdown days.
Other space launches have seen a bigger impact from coronavirus, including the European Space Agency ExoMars mission being delayed until 2024.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated byKarl Tate), a book about the search for alien life.