A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket has entered final preparations to launch the sixth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) communications satellite for the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, the organization announced on Tuesday.
“In the current dynamic environment, national security is of utmost importance,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs. “We are proud to launch the first National Security Space mission for the U.S. Space Force and look forward to delivering the final AEHF asset to support our nation’s national defense and the warfighter community.”
The Atlas V 551 configuration rocket is the most powerful in the Atlas V fleet. The 551 rocket has launched MUOS constellation to missions including New Horizons, the first mission to Pluto and the Juno mission to Jupiter. The Atlas V 551 configuration first launched on January 19, 2006 and has launched 10 times to date.
The system, developed by Lockheed Martin, provides vastly improved global, survivable, protected communications capabilities for strategic command and tactical warfighters, including a 5-meter large Payload Fairing (PLF) and stands at 197 ft. tall.
The Atlas booster for this mission is powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine. Aerojet Rocketdyne provided the five AJ-60A solid rocket boosters (SRBs) and RL10C-1 engine for the Centaur upper stage. This launch will mark the 500th flight of the RL10 engine.
The launch is on track for March 26 at Space Launch Complex-41 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The launch is planned for 2:57 p.m. EDT at the opening of a two-hour launch window. The live launch broadcast begins at 2:37 p.m. EDT on www.ulalaunch.com. The launch of AEHF-6 will mark the 138th launch for ULA and the first National Security Space mission for the U.S. Space Force.
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