Launch Success

By Courtney Albon / May 25, 2013 at 2:59 PM

The Air Force last night successfully sent its fifth Wideband Global Satellite Communications spacecraft into orbit from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL.

The Boeing-built satellite was launched on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket booster and was the first to fly since last October when the booster's upper stage RL10B engine, made by Pratt &Whitney Rocketdyne, malfunctioned during an Air Force mission. The satellite lifted off at 8:27 p.m., the first minute of its launch window.

In a statement released May 24, ULA’s vice president of mission operations, Jim Sponnick, praised the launch team for its work leading up to the launch, which was delayed twice in the past week.

“The team has worked tremendously hard and exceptionally well to complete a robust investigation and get us to a successful launch today,” Sponnick said. “We sincerely thank the [Pratt &Whitney Rocketdyne] team and our customer community for working with us throughout the investigation and flight clearance process, as well as the involvement from senior industry technical advisors.”

The WGS communications satellite constellation is operated by the Air Force and predominantly used by the Army. Over the next few months, WGS-5 will move through on-orbit testing to prepare it for operational use, which will ultimately be directed by the Air Force’s 3rd Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base, CO. The satellite is expected to be operational by the end of this year.

Luke Scab, chief of the service’s wideband satellite communications division, said in a May 24 statement that the constellation is an important piece of the services military communications capabilities.

"WGS continues to meet user requirements and provides the highest capacity of any DoD communications satellite. . . ." Scab said in the statement. "This continued success is due to the hard work and dedication from the combined government and industry team."