The Air Force and its industry partners on Monday launched the first two Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program satellites into orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket fired from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. The mission successfully went off at 7:28 p.m. East Coast time on July 28 from Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 37, according to a release from the 45th Space Wing at nearby Patrick Air Force Base. “What a thrill for Team Patrick-Cape to play a significant role in the launch of this vitally important mission, and we are so very proud to do so,” said Brig. Gen. Nina Armagno, 45th SW commander and launch decision authority for the mission. Unfavorable weather and other factors had delayed the launch for almost a week. GSSAP satellites will operate in near-geosynchronous orbit as dedicated space-surveillance sensors to monitor man-made orbiting objects. Airmen with the 1st Space Operations Squadron at Schriever AFB, Colo., will oversee the two satellites’ day-to-day operations. The Delta IV also carried an Air Force Research Lab experimental satellite known as ANGELS aloft. It will test techniques and technologies for space situational awareness.
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.