A massive United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket took the US Space Force into space on Thursday. The rocket was decked out in the official Space Force logo as it escorted an Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications satellite into orbit.
Atlas took off from a launchpad at Cape Canaveral in Florida. ULA's live launch webcast kicked off at 11:37 a.m. PT, but the flight took place around 1:20 p.m. PT after a technical issue foiled the first countdown. The second attempt went off smoothly.
The Atlas V booster separated cleanly from the Centaur upper stage that will take the satellite on the final leg of its journey into orbit. "Successful staging and ignition of the Centaur upper stage is confirmed!" ULA tweeted. Centaur was scheduled to release the satellite about six hours after launch.
Gen. Jay Raymond, chief of space operations, tweeted a look at the Space Force logo, which sat between an American flag and the ULA Atlas logo. "Despite COVID-19, we're ready to launch," he tweeted earlier on Thursday, describing this mission as the first national security space launch for the Space Force.
The satellite is the last in a series of six Advanced Extremely High Frequency, or AEHF, launches. "AEHF satellites provide global, survivable, protected communications capabilities for strategic command and tactical warfighters operating on ground, sea and air platforms," ULA said.
Space Force is the newest branch of the US military. President Donald Trump established the United States Space Command last August, setting the stage for the formal arrival of Space Force.
While the Space Force seal received plenty of criticism when it was unveiled in January, it was quite a sight to see the Star Trek-like logo take off in a fiery blaze. As ULA CEO Tory Bruno reminded us, the Atlas rocket is a 20-story building that blasts into space.