To round out the end of the work week, the United Launch Alliance plans to launch a military satellite out of Florida this evening, marking the second flight of the year for the company. ULA’s Delta IV rocket will be lofting a communications satellite called Wideband Global SATCOM, or WGS-10, for the US Air Force. And it’s one of the last times this particular rocket will lift off.
This is the 10th Air Force satellite of its kind. When in space, WGS-10 will join nine other spacecraft in the Wideband Global SATCOM constellation, all of which are designed to provide communications for military personnel, the US State Department, the US’s international partners, and more. But unlike a few of the satellite’s predecessors, WGS-10 will have a slightly higher data transmission rate.
The Delta IV flying today is the Medium+ version of the vehicle, and it will have four tiny rocket boosters at its base to give the rocket extra thrust at liftoff. Ultimately, ULA is phasing out the Delta IV Medium, and tonight’s mission will be the second to last time this type of vehicle flies. However, ULA will still maintain a fleet of the heavier version of the vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy, which consists of three rocket cores strapped together. But soon, the single-core Delta IV will no longer be in service.
Tonight’s mission is scheduled to lift off at 6:56PM ET out of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. ULA has a launch window that lasts nearly two hours, so the Delta IV can conceivably take off up until 9:05PM ET. Weather seems like it will cooperate for the mission, as there’s an 80 percent chance of favorable conditions. ULA’s coverage of the flight will begin at 6:36PM ET, so check back during happy hour to see this rocket go to orbit.