Blazing through the evening skies over Florida, a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket blasted off at 8:29 p.m. EDT on August 7, beginning another successful mission to delivery a Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) satellite to geosynchronous orbit for the United States Air Force. Forty minutes after blasting off from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 37, WGS-6 separated from the Delta’s upper stage as one of the country’s workhorse launch vehicles notched another successful mission. Today’s launch marked the second WGS launch of the year and rocket builder United Launch Alliances seventh launch so far for the year.
“Congratulations to the entire team on today’s successful launch of the WGS-6 satellite. As with the previous five WGS missions, we have enjoyed a very strong partnership with the Air Force and all of our missions partners throughout this launch campaign,” said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Atlas and Delta Programs. “We were honored to launch the first two WGS satellites on our Atlas V vehicle and the next four satellites in the constellation on our Delta IV vehicle, delivering critical communications capability to orbit to support our nation’s warfighters throughout the world.”
This mission was launched aboard a Delta IV Medium-plus configuration vehicle using a single ULA common booster core powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68 main engine, along with four ATK GEM 60 solid rocket motors. The five-meter diameter upper stage was powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10B-2 engine with the satellite encapsulated in a five-meter diameter composite payload fairing. The WGS-6 launch marked the fourth flight of the Delta IV medium+ (5,4) configuration and the 23rd flight of the Delta IV family of launch vehicles.
As with all launches from Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center, U.S. Air Force Rservists from the 920th Rescue Wing patrolled the launch hazard zone aboard twin HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters. In the hours before launch, they ensured no boats or other air and watercraft accidentally – or deliberately – strayed into a cone-shaped swath of ocean stretching for miles out from the launch pad. The 920th patrols the hazard or “safe” zone surrounding the launch pad to ensure boaters are a safe distance from potentially falling rocket debris.
“The 920th’s primary mission is combat rescue, but our role in this unique mission is public safety,” said Col. Jeffrey Macrander, 920th Rescue Wing commander. “Our job is to clear the launch hazard zone underneath the trajectory of the rocket, just in case there is a malfunction.”
To ensure continued safety on the Range, 920th Airmen remained airborne while the rocket dashed into space.
“These things we do that others may live”, is the creed Rescue Wing Airmen live by when carrying out their mission of saving lives, allowing them the benefit of having a front-row seat to dangerous, yet vital missions like combat rescue and rocket launches.
“Our public safety mission out at the Cape is unique – nobody else does it,” said Macrander. “We’ve enjoyed a strong relationship for twenty years now with the 45th Space Wing and U.S. Air Force Space Command to provide those resources.”
“WGS was the first of the constellation of satellites to launch on both the Delta IV and Atlas V vehicles,” said Sponnick. “This team’s ability to integrate and launch satellites successfully and efficiently on two launch systems provides operational flexibility to our customers.”
Wideband Global SATCOM provides anytime, anywhere communication for the warfighter through broadcast, multicast, and point to point connections. WGS is the only military satellite communications system that can support simultaneous X and Ka band communications.
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