New Launch: 2012 January 20, 0038 UTC
Site: Air Force Eastern Test Range, Florida, USA
Launcher: Delta IV
International Designator(s): 2012-003A
 
SSC Name Owner
38070 WGS F4 (USA 233) US


"A new Air Force satellite headed for service over the Middle East to route essential communications to U.S. military forces and improve data links to unmanned aerial drones was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral last night.

"The Wideband Global SATCOM 4 spacecraft, better known as WGS 4, rode a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket away from the Florida spaceport's pad 37B at 7:38 p.m. EST (0038 GMT) on a 40-minute ascent to supersynchronous orbit.

"Liftoff occurred at the opening minute of a launch window set months in advance.

"Valued at US$464 million, the 6.5-ton satellite will enhance military communications over a turbulent portion of the globe when it commences broadcasting duties in a few months.

"Dropped off into a highly-elliptical, preliminary orbit by the Delta 4 rocket, the satellite's conventional bi-propellant chemical main engine will execute four apogee and four perigee firings through early February before beginning 40 days of final orbit circularization maneuvers with its xenon-ion propulsion thrusters to reach geosynchronous perch 22,300 miles [35,888 km] above Earth in March.

"Once its appendages are fully unfurled in space, the craft's solar-power wings will span 134 feet [40.8 m].

"In-orbit testing with the military's Camp Roberts facility in California will occur from mid-March through mid-April. Boeing will control the craft's initial flying until handover to the Air Force at the end of April.

"From there, the spacecraft will drift to the operational location over the Indian Ocean to receive final acceptance into the WGS constellation and enter service this summer.

"The Air Force says it plans to put this WGS 4 spacecraft's coverage footprint over the Middle East and Southeast Asia for use by U.S. Central Command and U.S. Pacific Command." "Once slid into its orbital home high above the Indian Ocean, the satellite will join the expanding fleet of Wideband Global SATCOM communications satellites that form the Pentagon's worldwide communications backbone across all branches of the military." "The craft's communications package provides shaped, steerable spotbeams of bandwidth wherever requested across its field-of-view for Ka- and X-band frequencies, plus the onboard capability to switch signals from one band to the other."

Source: Spaceflight Now, "Delta 4 rocket soars on Defense Department mission"

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