The United Launch Alliance (ULA) has a mission today, launching a specialized secure communications satellite for the U.S. Space Force. That's the new space-focused arm of the U.S. military that was officially formed last year in response to what the administration has characterized as a growing need to ensure America's assets in space are properly defended.
The launch today is set to take off from Cape Canaveral in Florida, with a lift-off time set for 2:57 PM EDT (11:57 AM PDT). The rocket carrying the satellite is an Atlas V, and the mission looks good to proceed as of Thursday morning in terms of both weather and systems checks.
This is the sixth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite being launched for the military, but the previous five have all been deployed under the U.S. Air Force because the Space Force only came into existence officially last year. The first five satellites were launched between 2010 and 2019, and together all six will form a constellation that provides secure communications capabilities for military operations across air, land and sea.
This will be the 83rd launch of an Atlas V rocket, and the 11th in this particular configuration. The ULA, a joint venture formed by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, currently has a 100 percent mission success rate, with a total of 133 launches under its belt.