CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket launched from Cape Canaveral on Thursday morning, carrying a satellite for the U.S. Air Force designed to provide secure communications with U.S. troops around the world.
After a technical delay, liftoff took place at 6:13 a.m.
The Space Coast was treated to a sunset launch Tuesday when a SpaceX Falcon 9 blasted off with Israeli company Spacecom's satellite.
The Air Force 45th Space Wing, which oversees the Eastern Range, faced a quick turn around between SpaceX and ULA launches on neighboring launch pads.
The commander of the 45th Space Wing, Brig. Gen. Doug Schiess, said earlier this week that his team was up for the challenge.
"We're looking forward to it," Schiess said Monday on a call with reporters. "Really excited to be able to show that capability."
Schiess said the Eastern Range could eventually see more than 48 launches a year.
"We would like to get to the point where we could launch within 24 hours," Schiess said.
ULA's payload, AEHF-5, is the fifth communications satellite in the Lockheed Martin-built Advanced Extremely High Frequency series for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center.
The AEHF satellites provide critical and secure communication support for U.S. troops on the ground.
Lockheed Martin’s AEHF program manager Mike Cacheiro said the $1.1 billion satellite has the abilities to detect and block any technology that may be jamming communications between war fighters and command.
“It's critical that we were able to block out those jammers. And they can be as simple as a radio with an antenna from Radio Shack to a complex jamming antenna, which … many nations of concern have and so you just have to be able to communicate through any type of environment,” Cacheiro said.
Atlas V rockets launched the first four AEHF satellites from 2010 to 2018 and will launch a sixth satellite in March 2020.
Thursday's launch marked the ninth this year from Florida.