US Air Force Launches Advanced Military Communication Satellite

This article was updated at 9:03 p.m. EDT with successful satellite separation.

A United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket took to the skies during an evening launch today (March 15), lofting a military satellite to become the 10th piece of a communications constellation.

The rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 8:26 p.m. EDT (0026 on March 16 GMT) after a series of technical delays. It deployed the satellite just under 37 minutes into the flight.

The launch delays came due to a first stage helium bottle pressurization issue and an issue with NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System, both of which engineers were able to address prior to launch.

The satellite will become the 10th Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) communications satellite in an Air Force constellation that supports military personnel deployed globally. Each of the WGS satellites, which formerly stood for Wideband Gapfiller Satellite, weighs about 13,000 lbs. (5,900 kilograms) and was built by Boeing.

A United Launch Alliance Delta IV medium rocket launches the WGS-10 military communications satellites into orbit for the U.S. Air Force on March 15, 2019 from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

(Image credit: United Launch Alliance)

The new satellite is classified as a Block II follow-on design and is the fourth of that group to launch for the Air Force; it can filter and downlink up to 8.088 GHz of bandwidth, according to ULA, which is nearly twice as much as older generations of the constellation's satellites.

Although the 10th satellite in the network is now on its way to normal operation, its recently announced successors are in doubt, reported Space News. They were added by Congress to the Air Force budget despite not being requested, but that money only covered the satellites themselves, not their launches.

Today's launch is the second of 2019 for ULA, its 133rd overall and the 383rd for the Delta family of rockets. ULA is targeting April for its next launch, which will be an uncrewed test of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner crew capsule to the International Space Station aboard an Atlas V rocket. The next Delta IV launch is currently scheduled for July.

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