Space force

Watch an Atlas V rocket launch a Space Force warning satellite on Thursday

Update for 8 a.m. ET: The United Launch Alliance has successfully launched an Atlas V rocket carrying the SBIRS GEO 6 missile early warning satellite. Read our full launch story.


United Launch Alliance (ULA) will launch a missile warning satellite for the US Space Force (USSF) Thursday morning, August 4, and you can watch it live.

A 194 feet high (59 meters) Atlas V The rocket is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida during a window spanning 6:29 a.m. to 7:09 a.m. EDT (10:29 a.m. to 11:09 a.m. GMT). The rocket will carry the Space-Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit Flight 6 (SBIRS Geo-6) satellite into orbit on behalf of the space forcecomplementing the service’s new critical missile detection and early warning system.

SBIRS Geo-6 was previously scheduled to launch on June 18 and July 31, but those attempts were delayed for unspecified reasons. Meteorologists from the Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron predicted a 70% chance of favorable weather Thursday morning, according to a ULA Statement (opens in a new tab).

Watch it live here on Space.com, courtesy of ULA, or directly through the company (opens in a new tab).

Related: Did Russia just launch a spacecraft to track down a US spy satellite?

The SBIRS system, designed by Lockheed Martin (opens in a new tab), is designed to replace the aging Defense Support Program (DSP) early warning satellites, the first of which was launched more than 50 years ago. Following the successful launch of SBIRS Geo-6 on Thursday, the SBIRS constellation will consist of three satellites in geosynchronous orbit (GEO) and two additional classified satellites in highly elliptical orbits (HEO) around the poles. The constellation’s first satellite launched in 2011, and the newest, SBIRS Geo-5, launched into orbit aboard an Atlas V in May 2021, also from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

SBIRS Geo-6 and the other GEO satellites in the system each have a scanning infrared sensor that “continuously scans the Earth to provide a 24/7 global strategic missile warning capability” for U.S. communities of defense and intelligence, according to a fact sheet (opens in a new tab) released by the US Air Force.

“This launch represents the conclusion of the production and launch phase, and the start of the satellites’ mission critical missile detection and early warning,” said Major Matt Blystone, program manager at Space Systems Command. Space Force (SSC). pre-launch briefing on Monday (August 1), according to Breaking Defense (opens in a new tab).

SBIRS GEO-6 is ULA’s fifth launch of 2022 and the second-to-last national security launch to take place on an Atlas 5 rocket before the launch provider transitions to its new Vulcan Centaur. The last two Pentagon launches aboard an Atlas V are scheduled for 2023.

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