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United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket lifted off with a US Space Force satellite
United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched an Atlas V rocket carrying the sixth and final Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (SBIRS GEO 6) spacecraft for the United States Space Force’s Space Systems Command. ULA is a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The rocket lifted off from the Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 6:29 a.m. EDT (3:59 p.m. IST).
Mighty Atlas V powers off the pad at Space Launch Complex-41 today on a dedicated mission for the U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command. pic.twitter.com/RQkZvhiLZK
— ULA (@ulalaunch) August 4, 2022
SBIRS is a missile early warning system that will succeed the Defense Support Program, whose first satellite launch took place in the 1950s. SBIRS will consist of a constellation of three satellites in geosynchronous orbit and two other classified satellites in highly elliptical polar orbits.
The first satellite in the constellation launched in 2011 and before SBIRS-6, the last launch was SBIRS-5 in 2021.
According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the SBIRS constellation has a continuous view of the entire Earth’s surface, which it will image every 10 seconds while looking for infrared heat signatures. This helps to quickly detect missile launches while also helping to identify the type of missile, burn rate, trajectory and likely point of impact.
The US Space Force is the sixth and newest branch of the US military, following the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Air Force. It was created on December 20, 2019, when the law on the authorization of state defense was signed. The creation of the Space Force arose out of the recognition that space would be an important national security imperative in the future.