New York, December 6 -- After two failed launch attempts, the Air Force's third communication satellite, Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS-3), successfully blasted off from Cape Canaveral 8:47 p.m. (EST), Saturday.
United Launch Alliance (ULA) had postponed the launch earlier amid bad weather and technical snags.
41 minutes after its launch, the Delta IV 5-4 rocket successfully deployed the satellite into the geosynchronous orbit, triggering cheers at the space launch control centre.
The satellite launch also marks the completion of 36th mission in 36 months.
Jim Sponnick, ULA Vice President, Delta Product Line, said in a statement, "ULA congratulates the Air Force and our mission partners on the successful launch of WGS-3. It was appropriate the Air Force, which was one of the primary customers ULA was created to support, was the customer for today's 36th launch in 36 months.”
An upgrade over its predecessor
With its spectacular launch from Space Launch Complex-37, WGS-3 has joined the two other WGSs launched on Oct. 10, 2007 and Apr. 3, 2009 respectively.
The WGS satellite’s installation has enabled more robust and successful execution of Command and Control, Communications Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR).
One WGS satellite’s capability is equivalent to the entire DSCS constellation. It not only enables users to get information faster but also provides data 10 times the data rate previously available, stated Air Force Maj. Mark Hadley, deputy program manager, Wideband Global SATCOM project.
WGS-3, an upgrade over Defense Satellite Communication System (DSCS), has been designed to serve U.S. and allied military forces around the world.
Providing high-capacity broadband communication services, WGS-3 will replace its DSCS as the Department of Defense's backbone for satellite communications.
Weighing 6.5 tons, the satellite will be positioned over the eastern Atlantic Ocean.
The successes so far
ULA, since its inception on Dec. 1, 2006, has had many successful launches. As a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and The Boeing Company, ULA undertook its first mission only 14 days after its inception with the launch of NROL-21 from Vandenberg AFB California.
Since then, it has successfully launched 11 Atlas V, 21 Delta II, and four Delta IV missions.
Besides being the 36th successful mission in 36 months, the launch also marks the success of new version of Delta rocket.
Unlike the previous Delta rockets, The Delta IV 5-4 boasts of five-meter payload shroud and four solid rocket boosters. Delta IV rockets have only four meter payload shroud and two rocket boosters.
With the WGS 3 launch, ULA completed its final 2009 flight. The next launch, of Atlas V rocket with NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, is scheduled for Feb. 3.