US-based spacecraft launch service provider United Launch Alliance (ULA) has launched space sensor satellites for the US Space Force’s (USSF) Space Systems Command.
The USSF-8 mission used an Atlas V 511 configuration rocket to launch the satellites into orbit from Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
The mission included two Northrop Grumman-built Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Programme (GSSAP) satellites, GSSAP-5 and GSSAP-6. These satellites are intended to improve the USSF’s space situational awareness.
This was the 91st launch of the Atlas V rocket, which features a short payload fairing measuring 5m.
ULA government and commercial programmes vice-president Gary Wentz said: “ULA continues to launch national security assets into highly complex orbits.
“The USSF-8 mission was successfully delivered to near-geosynchronous orbit after a nearly seven-hour mission.
“We want to thank the US Space Force and our mission partners for their teamwork for the successful launch and delivery to orbit.”
Northrop Grumman also delivered the Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM) 63 solid rocket booster and other essential aeronautical components for the launch.
Aerojet Rocketdyne supplied the RL10C-1 engine for the Centaur upper stage, while the Atlas booster was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine.
Enterprise Linux support and services company TuxCare provided the security patches for the launch.
ULA’s upcoming launch is the GOES-T mission for NASA, which is scheduled to take place in March at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
The GSSAP programme delivers a space-based capability working in a near-geosynchronous Earth orbit.
GSSAP satellites are designed to support orbital predictions, improve knowledge of the orbit environment and make spaceflights safer by allowing orbiting objects to be tracked and characterised.
In 2018, a mission featuring the GSSAP-5 and GSSAP-6 satellites was part of a $351.8m contract given to United Launch Alliance (ULA).