Despite all the measures that are currently in place to keep as much of the general public away from public places as possible in this time of COVID-19-centric social distancing, a handful of important events are just too vital to cancel. One such example was purportedly the historic launch of a communications satellite on behalf of the United States Space Force this past week.
Image Credit: United Launch Alliance
Only critical staff were permitted to oversee the historic launch as it transpired at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Thursday. The launch, conducted with the heavy-lifting power of a United Launch Alliance-built Atlas V rocket, faced an 80-minute delay before liftoff as a result of faulty hydraulic equipment readouts. Fortunately, the fault was resolved or at least deemed negligible enough to ignore in time for the launch.
Worthy of note, this was the first space launch mission performed by the United States Space Force since its establishment last December.
"It is a really, really important launch. It's the very first launch for the US Space Force," explained Lieutenant General John F Thompson. "There are critical things, or mission essential things, that the US Department of Defense does every day. Even in the face of a global pandemic we must continue to perform mission essential tasks."
The communications satellite that the United States Space Force sent into space weighed a respectable 13,600 pounds and was named the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-6) satellite. As you might have inferred from the name, it’s the sixth of a series of high frequency satellites that will facilitate encrypted voice and data communications between United States government entities and trusted partners around the world.
All of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellites, including those that existed long before United States Space Force’s conception, are now owned and operated by the Space Force. This also makes the Space Force responsible for maintaining and adding to the satellite constellation, which means that there could be more launches just like this one in the foreseeable future whether they’re related to the AEHF satellites or not.