Blazing a fiery trail in the sky above Cape Canaveral, a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket successfully orbited the ninth Wideband Global Satcom (WGS-9) spacecraft for the U.S. Air Force last night, the second launch in three days and third in four weeks from Florida. After a 34-minute delay to troubleshoot an issue with an umbilical swing-arm on the launch pad, the Delta IV lifted off at 8:18 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral.
The 217 foot tall Delta launch vehicle flew in the 5, 4 configuration with one Common Booster Core (CBC) and four solid rocket motors built by Orbital ATK producing a total of 1.7 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.. The CBC is powered by a single RS-68A liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine, built by Aerojet Rocketdyne, producing 705,250 pounds of thrust at sea level.
Inside the second stage, a single RL10B-2 liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine, also manufactured by Aerojet Rocketdyne, took over from the first stage to send WGS-9 into orbit on its way to geostationary orbit 22,000 miles above Earth. The booster and upper stage engines are both built by Aerojet Rocketdyne.
“Thank you to the women and men of United Launch Alliance and all of our teammates who have worked tirelessly together to ensure today’s mission success,” said Maginnis. “The team’s number one priority was safely and reliably delivering one of our nation’s most critical satellites.”
WGS-9, the third Block II Follow-on satellite, supports communications links in the X-band and Ka-band spectra. The WGS-9 satellite will be able filter and downlink up to 8.088 GHz of bandwidth. WGS satellites are an important element of a new high-capacity satellite communications system providing enhanced communications capability to our troops in the field.
Each WGS satellite provides ten times more bandwidth than the entire Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS) constellation that WGS is replacing.
“WGS is just one of many examples of advances in military technology, and I can’t think of a better mission to recognize the Air Force’s 70th birthday,” said Bob Tarleton, director of military satellite communications systems at the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles.
WGS-9 was ULA’s 3rd launch in 2017 and the 118th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006. The launch team won’t have much time to waste, either. The next ULA launch is the Orbital ATK Cygnus OA-7 mission to resupply the International Space Station. That launch is currently scheduled for Friday, March 24, although it may move forward a day if the Eastern Range becomes available. That launch will blast off at 9 p.m. on Friday if the schedule holds.
Matthew Travis / Zero-G News
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