A beautiful night for a launch Thursday evening as a heavy-lift Delta IV rocket thundered off the launchpad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, sending a broadband communications satellite into orbit for the US military. Observers at the launch site said they could see the rocket several minutes into the flight, witnessing the separation of the strap-on boosters.
The WGS-4 mission is the fourth satellite for the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) system. The WGS satellites will provide enhanced communications capabilities to US soldiers in the field for the next decade and beyond.
“It’s a great feeling to see the launch of this WGS satellite, especially knowing how important this constellation is to our troops in the field,” said Captain Tim Trimailo from the US Air Force. “This system provides voice, data and commanding at roughly ten times the rate previously available to an increased number of users. Those users include ground forces, US embassies and airborne assets, which in today’s war are key capabilities. WGS enables more users to get more information faster and that’s what keeps us ahead of the enemy.”
$464-million spacecraft was built by Boeing, and the 66-meter- (217-foot)-long rocket was built by the Boeing-Lockheed Martin partnership of the United Launch Alliance. It lifted off at 7:38 p.m. EST (0038 GMT Friday). This was the first of 12 launches planned from Cape Canaveral this year.
In addition to linking ground troops and command stations, the satellite will be used to route tracking and data streams from unmanned aerial drones.
More info: United Launch Alliance