Atlas V rocket is prepared to launch today, March 26th, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, United Launch Alliance has announced.
The take-off has been scheduled for 2.57 p.m. (18:57 UTC) for the national security expedition that has a two-hour window, as the first liftoff under the command of the recently constructed US Space Force.
For this expedition, the Atlas V rocket will send the sixth and final satellite in a constellation of military communication probes located in geostationary orbit; the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites are substituting the older Milstar communication array. The individual probes cost $850 million each, and this particular AEHF-6 satellite that was set for launch today was designed by Lockheed Martin Space Systems. The other five AEHF satellites were sent into orbit by Atlas V rockets between 2010 and 2019.
Most Spaceports Are Closed Down
Although United Launch Alliance has reduced some elements of its outreach for this project because of the coronavirus spread with a social media event being called off, the company is following the rules in its internal Pandemic Plan and only carrying out essential activities.
Some spaceports around the globe have closed down in the last few days due to the outbreak. Europe has halted activity at its main spaceport in French Guiana, and Rocket Lab stated on Wednesday that its following mission, set for March 30th, will not take off on time because of New Zealand’s increased response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We commend the government for taking this drastic but necessary step to limit the spread of COVID-19,” the company said on its website. “In the days, weeks, and months to come, we’ll be following the advice of the government and health authorities to protect our teams in the United States and New Zealand.”
However, the United States military’s primary spaceports in Florida and California (Vandenberg Air Force Base) seem to still allow launch missions, at least for now.
United Launch Alliance will broadcast the liftoff, beginning around 20 minutes before the opening of the launch window. You can watch it below.