by James Spellman, Jr.
Space and Missile Systems Center Public Affairs
7/23/2015 - LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, El Segundo, Calif. -- Five
o'clock in the "City of Angels" typically signals the end of a hard
work day. It's a time when most Los Angeles metropolitan area commuters
pile on to the freeways and Metrorail system, returning to their homes
during the long summer evening.
However, about 25 dedicated Space and Missile Systems Center personnel
put off their mad dash to jam the streets of L.A. and gathered
instead in the Gordon Conference Center at the Schriever Space Complex.
Instead of having visions of the weekend ahead, these active duty and
civilian employees -- some with family members in tow -- observed the
culmination of their efforts some three hours ahead and 2,584 miles away
at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Featuring a newly uprated Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A main engine for the
first time on a rocket of its kind, a United Launch Alliance Delta IV
Medium+ (5, 4) vehicle with a five-meter wide, 47-foot long payload
fairing and four solid fuel motors soared from Space Launch Complex 37B
at 8:07 p.m. EDT Thursday evening, carrying the seventh Wideband Global
SATCOM satellite into a super-synchronous 36,000 mile transfer orbit.
The Air Force communications satellite will join a constellation of WGS
satellites already on station, providing global coverage to the U.S.
military and its allies.
Meanwhile, back in California, the appreciative audience watched the
launch as part of the eighth "SMC Launch Presents" event since 2014.
Hosted by Capt. Nick Laliberte, Government Mission Integration manager
from SMC's Launch Systems Directorate, these "Launch and Learn" sessions
offer a pre-launch mission briefing and question and answer period to
explain what occurs during the countdown and the mission timeline in
between the launch and satellite separation.
Just one week earlier, a similar, albeit larger audience of more than
150 SMC personnel gathered the morning of July 15 to watch the
successful flight of a ULA Atlas V "401" launch vehicle carry the GPS
IIF-10 satellite into orbit for the Global Positioning System navigation
network. The fourth Atlas V launch of 2015 with helped mark the 20th
anniversary of the GPS constellation of satellites achieving Full
Launch managers were forced to scrub the WGS-7 mission Wednesday evening
for 24 hours, due to Florida's notorious summer weather. The stormy
forecast proved too worrisome to roll back the protective mobile service
gantry and leave the vehicle exposed during the afternoon fueling
Weather forecasters from the 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force Base
expected heavy thunderstorms in the Cape area for Thursday's attempt,
with anvil clouds and lightning being their primary concerns of
violating launch criteria. Fortunately, the skies parted long enough for
ULA's medium lift launch vehicle to do its job.
"This is the seventh installment of the WGS system. The satellites are
an important element of a new, high-capacity comm system providing
communications capability to our troops in the field," said Ron Fortson,
United Launch Alliance's director of mission management.
"It provides the highest data-rate communications for the government,"
added Rico Attanasio, Boeing director of Military Satellite
Boeing is the builder of the WGS fleet and ULA has launched all of the
spacecraft to date. The satellites supply communications such as maps
and data to soldiers on the battlefield, relay video from unmanned
aerial reconnaissance drones, route voice calls and data messaging, and
even offer quality-of-life considerations like television broadcasts and
email delivery to the troops.
"The WGS constellation continues to provide significant added capacity
to our DoD space communications architecture." said Lt. Gen. Samuel
Greaves, Space and Missile Systems Center commander and Air Force
Program Executive Officer for Space. "WGS delivers crucial wideband
communication to soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and international
partners around the globe. I am proud of the hard work and cooperation
of the government and contactor teams on another successful WGS launch."
With three more satellites in production, the WGS constellation is planned to have a total of ten satellites on orbit by 2018.
Air Force Space Command's Space and Missile Systems Center, located at
Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, Calif., is the U.S. Air
Force's center of acquisition excellence for acquiring and developing
military space systems. Its portfolio includes the Global Positioning
System, military satellite communications, defense meteorological
satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control networks,
space based infrared systems and space situational awareness