Delta IV Launches Communications Satellite Into Orbit

Image: Delta IV Launches Communications Satellite Into Orbit

Friday, 09 Aug 2013 03:50 PM

By Ken Mandel

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A Delta IV rocket launched Wednesday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station with military communications satellites intended to strengthen the system.

The 21-story-tall projectile took off as scheduled at 8:29 p.m. ET from Space Launch Complex 37-B, CBS News reported. The U.S. Air Force said the satellite being transported contains the country's "next-generation wideband satellite communications system."

"The WGS-6 satellite will provide the U.S. military forces and international partners with enhanced communication capabilities and increased coverage," the Air Force said in a statement.

The launch, which is funded by Australia out of a partnership with the Australian Defence Force, is the 23rd for the Delta IV since 2002, and the 19th from Cape Canaveral.

The rocket is equipped with four solid-fuel strap-on boosters for extra liftoff power. The 13,200-pound WGS-6 satellite, built by Boeing, joins a worldwide military communications network that includes the United States, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and New Zealand.

Area residents and tourists who attended the Wednesday night launch saw a cloud of smoke and fire from the strap-on boosters as the rocket lifted high above the Atlantic Ocean, CBS said.

The launch was the 16th Delta mission managed by United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The next scheduled mission is a flight from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on Aug. 28 to send a classified National Reconnaissance Office satellite into orbit.

At least 10 additional missions are planned.

Australia will pay about $700 million for the WGS-6 satellite, the ULA Delta IV rocket, and support during the program’s life. WGS-9 is being financed by the other five partner nations while the U.S. Air Force is funding the rest of the fleet.

Dave Madden, director of the U.S. Air Force Military Satellite Communications Systems Directorate, told CBS News that pooling resources is consistent with the Department of Defense's goal to stengthen relationships with allied partners.

"When budgets get tight, it actually forces people to think more and work harder together," he said. "I think the reductions in the budgets are going to enable us to form some very strong partnerships with a lot of our allied partners that will significantly bring down our operating costs of system and create better interoperability between our forces when we deploy together."

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