Delta 4 rocket launches Air Force’s 10th WGS broadband satellite – Spaceflight Now

A United Launch Alliance Delta Four rockets lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Pressure Station, Florida, on Friday with the U.S. Air Pressure’s tenth Wideband International SATCOM communications satellite tv for pc. Credit score: Walter Scriptunas II / Spaceflight Now

United Launch Alliance positioned a brand new satellite tv for pc in orbit with a fiery Friday night time blastoff from Cape Canaveral, utilizing a model of the Delta Four rocket that’s nearing retirement to complement a U.S. army community relaying alerts from drones and battlefield commanders.

After floor groups cleared a number of technical hurdles with the rocket and a satellite tv for pc monitoring community, the 218-foot-tall (66-meter) Delta Four launcher’s hydrogen-fueled RS-68A fundamental engine flashed to life with an orange burst of flame moments earlier than liftoff.

5 seconds later, 4 strong rocket motors ignited, and hold-down bolts launched at eight:26 p.m. EDT Friday (0026 GMT Saturday) because the Delta Four quickly climbed away from Cape Canaveral’s Complicated 37B launch pad with 1.eight million kilos of thrust.

The primary engine and booster nozzles vectored their thrust to information the Delta Four east over the Atlantic Ocean, sending the U.S. Air Pressure’s tenth Wideband International SATCOM communications satellite tv for pc towards its remaining working place greater than 22,000 miles (almost 36,000 kilometers) over the equator in geostationary orbit.

The Delta Four’s strong rocket boosters, constructed by Northrop Grumman, burned out and jettisoned in two pairs round 1 minute, 40 seconds, into the mission. As soon as above the dense decrease layers of the environment, the Delta Four launched its nostril cone to disclose the WGS 10 satellite tv for pc.

The Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A fundamental engine fired almost 4 minutes till the primary stage launched to fall into the Atlantic Ocean. An higher stage RL10B-2 engine, additionally equipped by Aerojet Rocketdyne, ignited two occasions to loft the WGS 10 spacecraft into an elliptical switch orbit ranging as excessive as 27,500 miles (44,300 kilometers) above Earth.

The Boeing-built WGS 10 satellite tv for pc separated from the Delta Four’s higher stage at T+plus 36 minutes, 50 seconds, extending the corporate’s streak of profitable missions to 133 since its formation in 2006.

The WGS 10 satellite tv for pc. Credit score: Boeing

Friday night time’s launch was delayed 90 minutes to permit time for engineers to look at technical issues on the primary and second levels of the Delta Four rocket. As soon as these points had been cleared, the launch staff needed to anticipate officers to make sure NASA’s Monitoring and Knowledge Relay Satellite tv for pc System was able to route telemetry from the rocket to floor controllers.

The mission marked the next-to-last flight of the Delta Four rocket variant with a single first stage core — often called the Delta Four-Medium — as ULA begins retiring segments of its launcher household in preparation for the debut of the brand new Vulcan booster, which the corporate says shall be inexpensive than the prevailing Atlas and Delta fleet.

Gary Wentz, ULA’s vp of presidency and business applications, mentioned the corporate’s determination in 2014 to retire the Delta Four-Medium was meant to scale back the corporate’s prices.

“We began trying on the merchandise that we had been offering, and located that sustaining these two households of launch autos, each the Delta and the Atlas, by way of this era decreased our flight price, and subsequently elevated our prices,” Wentz mentioned. “That basically drove it, based mostly on the aggressive business we’re in, attempting to maximise our competitiveness.”

The Delta Four-Medium household supplies the identical vary of carry functionality because the inexpensive Atlas 5 rocket. The Delta Four-Heavy, which is able to stay operational by way of at the least the early-to-mid-2020s, makes use of three Delta Four first stage cores bolted collectively to haul heavier payloads to orbit than any of the Atlas 5 configurations.

ULA was fashioned in 2006 by the merger of Boeing’s Delta Four and Lockheed Martin’s Atlas 5 rocket applications. The 50-50 three way partnership stored each rocket traces operational to make sure the U.S. army had two unbiased launch choices for nationwide safety satellites.

However SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets are actually licensed to launch U.S. nationwide safety payloads. With the Falcon and Atlas rocket households, the army will proceed to have two launch choices after the Delta Four-Medium’s retirement.

The Delta Four rocket streaks downrange on this lengthy publicity photograph. Credit score: Alex Polimeni/Spaceflight Now

Friday’s launch used the Delta Four-Medium+ 5,Four rocket variant, with 4 strong rocket boosters and a 5.1-meter (16.7-foot) higher stage and payload shroud. It was the eighth and remaining flight of the Delta Four-Medium+ 5,Four configuration, and all carried WGS satellites for the Air Pressure.

Yet another Delta Four-Medium rocket is about for launch July 25 from Cape Canaveral with an Air Pressure GPS navigation satellite tv for pc. That launcher will fly within the Delta Four-Medium+ Four,2 configuration, with two strong rocket boosters and a Four-meter (13.1-foot) diameter higher stage and payload fairing.

With Friday’s launch, the Delta Four rocket has flown 39 occasions since November 2002, and 28 of these missions used a Delta Four-Medium.

“It’s had a really profitable historical past, and it’s much like the WGS satellite tv for pc, it’s a workhorse for the Air Pressure,” Wentz mentioned of the Delta Four-Medium. “It’s form of bittersweet that we’re right here on the finish, however we sit up for the missions to come back sooner or later, and the autos that we’ll area.”

Together with the GPS launch in July, ULA has contracts in place for six Delta Four flights by way of 2024. The 5 Delta Four-Heavy launches deliberate within the early 2020s will all hoist high secret payloads for the Nationwide Reconnaissance Workplace, the U.S. authorities’s spy satellite tv for pc company:

  • Delta Four-Medium+ Four,2 with the GPS three SV02 payload
    • Launch Date: July 25, 2019
    • Launch Website: SLC-37B, Cape Canaveral Air Pressure Station, Florida
  • Delta Four-Heavy with the NROL-44 payload
    • Launch Date: 2020
    • Launch Website: SLC-37B, Cape Canaveral Air Pressure Station, Florida
  • Delta Four-Heavy with the NROL-82 payload
    • Launch Date: 2020
    • Launch Website: SLC-6, Vandenberg Air Pressure Base, California
  • Delta Four-Heavy with the NROL-91 payload
    • Launch Date: Fiscal yr 2022
    • Launch Website: SLC-6, Vandenberg Air Pressure Base, California
  • Delta Four-Heavy with the NROL-68 payload
    • Launch Date: Fiscal yr 2023
    • Launch Website: SLC-37B, Cape Canaveral Air Pressure Station, Florida
  • Delta Four-Heavy with the NROL-70 payload
    • Launch Date: Fiscal yr 2024
    • Launch Website: SLC-37B, Cape Canaveral Air Pressure Station, Florida

The 13,200-pound (6,000-kilogram) WGS 10 communications satellite tv for pc launched Friday night time joins 9 broadband satellites deployed since 2007 to type a globe-spanning community relaying video, information and different info between the battlefield to determination makers.

The WGS fleet transmits categorized and unclassified alerts, supporting U.S and allied forces around the globe. That includes a digital channelizer, the roughly $400 million WGS 10 satellite tv for pc will relay high-data-rate communications in X-band and Ka-band frequencies throughout a mission anticipated to final at the least 14 years.

One of many WGS 10 satellite tv for pc’s Ka-band reflectors throughout a deployment take a look at inside Boeing’s manufacturing facility in El Segundo, California. Credit score: Boeing

“WGS has the distinctive potential to cross-band between army Ka- and X-band, which supplies our warfighters important flexibility to maximise communications functionality,” mentioned Tom Becht, director of the army satellite tv for pc communications directorate on the Air Pressure’s Area and Missile Programs Middle in Los Angeles.

The 9 earlier WGS satellites all launched on ULA rockets — the primary two on Atlas 5s in 2007 and 2009, and the next seven on Delta 4s. The Wideband International SATCOM fleet is the U.S. Protection Division’s highest capability satellite tv for pc communications community.

Two of the 10 WGS satellites launched to this point had been funded by worldwide governments. WGS 6 was funded by Australia, and a consortium together with Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and New Zealand paid for the WGS 9 satellite tv for pc launched in March 2017. In alternate for his or her contributions, these nations’ militaries achieve entry to the WGS community.

WGS 10 is the fourth and remaining “Block II Observe-On” WGS satellite tv for pc, and it’s the third with the digital channelizer, which handles communications alerts extra effectively, almost doubling the bandwidth offered by earlier spacecraft within the collection.

Based mostly on the Boeing 702 satellite tv for pc platform, WGS 10 will use a liquid-fueled increase engine and plasma thrusters to circularize its orbit greater than 22,000 miles over the equator. The maneuvers will take about 4 months, officers mentioned, earlier than WGS 10 reaches geostationary orbit, the place its velocity will match the speed of Earth’s rotation.

After a two-month take a look at marketing campaign in geostationary orbit over the USA, army leaders will resolve the place to deploy WGS 10.

Military Col. Enrique Costas, venture supervisor for protection communications and Military transmission techniques, mentioned the WGS community is widely-used within the army due to its reliability and high-bandwidth capability, enabling reside video transmissions from drones around the globe again to operators lots of or hundreds of miles away.

“If I used to be to focus on a selected terrorist within the Center East, and I’ve an ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) platform that’s taking a look at that terrorist, I want to have the ability to decide whether or not or to not fireplace, or ship a floor staff to get that concentrate on,” Costas mentioned.

Excessive-resolution video streaming from a flying drone requires a number of bandwidth, he mentioned.

“I want to have the ability to transmit that sign from the purpose of assortment all the way in which again to the middle the place the choice goes to be made whether or not to to not pull the set off or deploy a staff to behave upon a selected mission,” Costas advised reporters in a pre-launch convention name. “WGS is likely one of the major ISR carriers for operational workforce in some theaters.”

The White Home and State Division additionally depend on WGS satellites, and the community broadcasts TV alerts to troops stationed around the globe.

“If … I’ve a telecon between the (combatant commander) and the president of the USA, I need to ensure that the sign doesn’t go down at any time throughout that dialog to make vital selections,” Costas continued. “WGS is a part of that transport to ensure that we’ve got dependable and guaranteed communications no matter the place we’re on the planet.”

The Air Pressure is near awarding a brand new contract to Boeing for at the least one extra WGS satellite tv for pc.

Congress added $600 million to the fiscal yr 2018 protection finances for 2 new WGS satellites, overruling the army’s plans to start sourcing extra communications capability from business satellites. However the funding line included no cash to launch the satellites, every of which prices between $300 million and $400 million.

The Air Pressure has kicked off one other spherical of WGS procurement utilizing the surprising cash, and Boeing submitted a proposal in January. Army officers haven’t determined whether or not to order one or two extra WGS satellites, based on Becht. He mentioned a remaining determination and contract signature is anticipated later this yr.

Becht mentioned the Air Pressure may observe a buying mannequin usually utilized by business satellite tv for pc operators, by which Boeing could be answerable for constructing the brand new WGS spacecraft utilizing cheaper practices. Boeing may additionally choose a launch supplier for the brand new WGS spacecraft, bundling all the mission into one turnkey contract, with remaining supply of the satellite tv for pc to the Air Pressure after it’s in orbit.

“The capabilities of the WGS system are supporting our allies around the globe in joint missions, and serving to our army to be more practical,” mentioned Rico Attanasio, Boeing’s director of tactical communications. “Shifting ahead, as the necessity for resilience in SATCOM grows, I’m assured WGS will proceed to be a key factor in assembly the wants of assured protected communications.”

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Observe Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

Delta 4 rocket launches Air Force’s 10th WGS broadband satellite – Spaceflight Now