US Air Force Launches New Military Satellite
The U.S. Air Force launched a high-speed broadband communications satellite onboard an unmanned heavy-lift Delta IV rocket on Thursday.
The 217-foot-long rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, carrying the $464-million spacecraft successfully into orbit. It was United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) first launch of the year, and 18th launch of the Delta IV vehicle.
“We are honored to have worked closely with our Air Force and mission partners to enable today’s successful launch of the WGS-4 satellite. WGS-4 will provide important capabilities to the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines protecting our freedoms around the world,” Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Mission Operations, said in a statement.
“This mission begins the most aggressive launch campaign in the history of the EELV program, with nine national security and two NASA launches scheduled this year.”
The Wideband Global SATCOM 4 is designed to relay high-resolution video, imagery, communications and other data at significantly faster rates than predecessor spacecraft.
The satellite will be used to route tracking and data streams from unmanned aerial drones, as well as link up ground troops and command stations.
It is the only military satellite communications system that can support simultaneous X and Ka band communications.
The 7.1-ton satellite will be placed into service next year to service troops in the Middle East and Southwest Asia. It is the fourth in a series of military satellites that have been sent into orbit since 2007.
Thursday’s launch was the first of 12 planned launches from Cape Canaveral this year. ULA’s next launch is the Atlas V launch of the U.S. Navy’s Mobile User Objective System-1 on February 16, 2012.
Imae Caption: A United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket blasts off from Space Launch Complex-37 at 7:38 p.m. EST with the Air Force’s Wideband Global SATCOM-4 (WGS-4) satellite. Credit: ULA
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