In October of 2018, the Trump administration announced the creation of the U.S. Space Force (USSF), previously known as the U.S. Air Force Space Command (AFSPC). The decision was formalized on December 20th, 2019, with the signing of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2020 (NDAA 2020). Since then, the USSF has taken steps to establish all the particulars of an independent service branch.
This included the creation of a logo and a motto (reminiscent of Starfleet and “Semper Supra!”), a headquarters, a recruiting video, and a training program. They even conducted their first joint mission with the USAF, sending the X-37B to space to test a number of technology demonstrators. And in honor of its one-year anniversary, the VP Pence announced that it has chosen what it will call USSF service members – Guardians!
CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, FL – The second round of March Launch Madness continued with the thunderous nighttime blastoff of a ULA Delta IV rocket powering a super swift military communications satellite to orbit in a collaborative effort of U.S. Allies from North America, Europe and Asia and the U.S. Air Force.
The next generation Wideband Global SATCOM-9 (WGS-9) military comsat mission for the U.S. Force lifted off atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV from Space Launch Complex-37 (SLC-37) on Saturday, March 18 at 8:18 p.m. EDT at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
Check out this expanding gallery of spectacular launch photos and videos gathered from my space journalist colleagues, myself and spectators ringing the space coast under crystal clear early evening skies.
A key feature in this advanced Block II series WGS satellite is inclusion of the upgraded digital channelizer that nearly doubles the available bandwidth of earlier satellites in the series.
WGS-9 can filter and downlink up to 8.088 GHz of bandwidth compared to 4.410 GHz for earlier WGS satellites. It supports communications links in the X-band and Ka-band spectra.
Note that Round 3 of March Launch Madness is tentatively slated for March 29 with the SpaceX liftoff of the first ever reused Falcon 9 first stage from historic pad 39 on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
The WGS-9 satellite was paid for by a six nation consortium that includes Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United States. It joins 8 earlier WGS satellites already in orbit.
The partnership was created back in 2012 when the ‘WGS-9 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)’ was signed by Defense organizations of the six countries.
The WGS-9 MOU agreement to fund the satellite enabled the expansion of the WGS system with this additional satellite added to the existing WGS constellation.
“The agreement provides all signatories with assured access to global wideband satellite communications for military use,” according to the US Air Force.
Watch this launch video compilation from Jeff Seibert:
Video Caption: Launch of WGS-9 satellite continues USAF Breaking Barriers heritage. This ULA Delta 4 launch of the WGS-9 satellite on Mar 18, 2017 marks the start of the 70th anniversary of the United States Air Force. That was also the year that U.S. Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier. Credit: Jeff Seibert
Watch this launch video from Ken Kremer:
Video Caption: ULA/USAF Delta IV launch of Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS-9) from pad 37 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl, on 18 Mar. 2017 – as seen in this remote video taken at the pad. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
WGS-9 was built by Boeing.
The 217 foot tall Delta IV Medium+ rocket launched in the 5,4 configuration with a 5 meter diameter payload fairing that stands 47 feet tall, and 4 solid rocket boosters to augment the first stage thrust of the single common core booster.
The payload fairing was emblazoned with decals commemorating the 70th anniversary of the USAF, as well as Air Force, mission and ULA logos.
Orbital ATK manufactures the four solid rocket motors. The Delta IV common booster core was powered by an RS-68A liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine producing 705,250 pounds of thrust at sea level.
A single RL10B-2 liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine powered the second stage, known as the Delta Cryogenic Second Stage (DCSS).
The booster and upper stage engines are both built by Aerojet Rocketdyne. ULA constructed the Delta IV Medium+ (5,4) launch vehicle in Decatur, Alabama.
The DCSS will also serve as the upper stage for the maiden launch of NASA heavy lift SLS booster on the SLS-1 launch slated for late 2018. That DCSS/SLS-1 upper stage just arrived at the Cape last week – as I witnessed and reported here.
Saturday’s launch marks ULA’s 3rd launch in 2017 and the 118th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006 as a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.