The USSF will launch a military communications satellite into space on Thursday, March 26, from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. You can watch it happen live in the player embedded above during the two-hour launch window that begins at 11:57 a.m. PT.
The satellite will be carried in a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 551 rocket. It will be the sixth and final spacecraft that is a part of the Lockheed Martin-built Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) series that launched between 2010 and 2019. The AEHF satellites are meant to provide protected global communications for strategic military personnel.
“In the current dynamic environment, national security is of utmost importance,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of government and commercial programs, in a statement. “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.”
According to Space.com, AEHF satellites orbit about 22,200 miles above the Earth in the geostationary orbit and are built to last for up to 14 years in space.
It has been a year of firsts for the USSF since it officially became a branch of the military in December 2019 when President Donald Trump signed into law a $738 billion defense bill. In February, the USSF quietly conducted its first test launch of an unarmed nuclear-capable ballistic missile across the Pacific Ocean. The testing was reportedly not related to any real-world events and the launch was instead meant to “holistically test the systems, procedures, and airmen,” according to a press release about the launch.
The USSF has also been busy decommissioning a 26-year-old GPS satellite to make way for newer ones. It also enlisted Gen. John Raymond as the first Chief of Space Operations.
The main goal of the USSF is to train and equip the military to protect the U.S. and its allied interests in space.