Sun. Oct 2nd, 2022

4.30pm ET update: Following a problem with ground support equipment, United Launch Alliance received its Atlas V rocket just over an hour after the launch window opened on Thursday. The first stage of the launch was a success, and now the rocket’s upper stage pushes the AEHF-6 satellite into geostationary orbit. The top stage will release the satellite 5 hours and 40 minutes after launch.

This is the first time a satellite has flown into space under the auspices of the US Space Force.

Original post: United Launch Alliance says its Atlas V rocket is ready to launch Thursday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch is scheduled for 2:57 PM (18:57 UTC) for the National Security Mission, which has a two-hour launch window. This is the first launch commanded by the newly created US Space Force.

For this mission, the Atlas V rocket will bolster the sixth and final satellite in a constellation of military communications satellites in geostationary orbit. The “Advanced Extremely High Frequency” (AEHF) satellites replace the older Milstar communications system. The individual satellites cost $850 million each, and this AEHF-6 satellite that launches Thursday is built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems. The previous five AEHF satellites were launched on Atlas V rockets from 2010 to 2019.

While United Launch Alliance has scaled down some aspects of its outreach for this mission due to the spread of Covid-19 – for example, an event has already been canceled on social media – the company is following protocols outlined in its internal Pandemic Plan and deploying continue with essential activities.

Some spaceports around the world have been closed in recent days due to the spread of the virus. Europe has suspended activity at its primary spaceport in French Guiana, and Rocket Lab announced on Wednesday that its next mission, scheduled for March 30, will not launch in time in light of New Zealand’s heightened response to the pandemic.

“We commend the government for taking this drastic but necessary step to limit the spread of COVID-19,” the company said on its website. “Over the coming days, weeks and months, we will follow advice from government and health authorities to protect our teams in the United States and New Zealand.”

But at key US military spaceports in Florida, where the Atlas V rocket is to be launched, and at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, critical launch capabilities appear to be underway, at least for now.

United Launch Alliance will provide a live webcast of the launch approximately 20 minutes prior to the opening of the launch window.

AEHF-6 launch.

List image by United Launch Alliance

By akfire1

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