WATCH AGAIN: ULA launches Altas V rocket from Space Coast

U.S. Air Force satellite heads to orbit


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – The most powerful version of United Launch Alliance's workhorse rocket launched a U.S. Air Force satellite overnight Wednesday from Cape Canaveral.

The 551 configuration of the Atlas V rocket produces 2.6 million pounds of thrust and includes five strap-on, solid rocket motors. It's the same configuration that launched NASA spacecraft to Pluto and Jupiter.

[WATCH AGAIN: ULA launches Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral]

Onboard the powerful Atlas V is the Air Force's Advanced Extremely High Frequency 4 satellite, known as AEHF-4. It's part of a $15 billion, six-satellite network designed to improve communications for military in the U.S., as well as Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Wednesday's launch was the fourth in the satellite constellation.

The (AEHF) system "provides vastly improved global, survivable, protected communications capabilities for strategic command and tactical warfighters operating on ground, sea and air platforms," according to officials with the satellite builder Lockheed Martin.

This was the final ULA launch this year on the east coast. The company plans to launch a Delta IV Heavy from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in December carrying a mission for the National Reconnaissance Office.

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