US Space Force launches first mission

Rodiano Bonacci
Marzo 27, 2020

THE US Space Force yesterday launched its first national security mission, sending an ultra-secure military communications satellite into orbit even as the coronavirus pandemic paralyses much of the country. The individual probes cost $850 million each, and this particular AEHF-6 satellite that was set for launch today was designed by Lockheed Martin Space Systems.

A UAL webcast from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida showed the Atlas V rocket - its first stage powered by a Russian made RD-180 with five strapped on boosters - soaring over the Atlantic shortly after the afternoon launch, trailed by clouds of frozen exhaust.

The metallic bird, known as AEHF-6, is the sixth machine to join America's fleet of Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites in geostationary orbits. Upgraded from the older Milstar satellites, the constellation has provided secure communication from 22,000 miles (35,400 kilometers) up for almost a decade.

The White House announced the creation of the Space Force military arm last December, with the U.S. president calling space "the world's newest warfighting domain".

Lieutenant General John F Thompson, Commander of the Space and Missiles Systems Centre in California, explained why the launch was proceeding despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

'It is a really, really important launch, ' he told the BBC.

"There are critical things, or mission essential things, that the US Department of Defence does every day. Surfaces will be cleaned between people, etc.", tweeted Bruno, who monitored the launch from company headquarters in Denver.

It's not just personnel affected by the coronavirus - Cape Canaveral Air Force Station was due to be renamed Cape Canaveral Space Force Station - but that is delayed.

Since its establishment previous year, the sixth division of the U.S. Armed Forces has been mercilessly mocked-first for its camouflage uniforms, then for its near-exact replica of Star Trek's Starfleet Command logo.

Today marks the 83rd mission for the Atlas V rocket, though it didn't go off entirely without a hitch.

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