A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the ninth Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS-9) satellite for the United States Air Force (USAF) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-37 on March 18 at 8:18 p.m. EDT.
“This launch commemorates the 70th anniversary of the USAF,” said Laura Maginnis, ULA vice president of Government Satellite Launch. “We are absolutely honored to play a role in this important milestone, while safely delivering WGS-9 to orbit.”
This mission was launched aboard a Delta IV Medium+ (5, 4) configuration Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) powered by one common booster core and four solid rocket motors built by Orbital ATK.
(Watch live as ULA’s Delta IV rocket lifts off with the ninth Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS-9) mission for the U.S. Air Force. Courtesy of United Launch Alliance and YouTube)
“Orbital ATK’s is proud to contribute a number of key technologies to ULA’s Delta IV launch vehicle,” said Scott Lehr, President of Orbital ATK’s Flight Systems Group.
“A launch like this one clearly demonstrates the breadth of our product lines in the launch and satellite sectors.”
Both the satellite and Delta IV launch vehicle use cutting-edge technologies from multiple Orbital ATK facilities.
For the WGS-9 satellite, Orbital ATK produced both loop heat pipes and standard heat pipes, which provide payload, spacecraft bus and battery thermal management, at its Beltsville, Maryland, facility.
Additionally, Orbital ATK manufactured the payload pallet boom tubes at its Magna, Utah, location and the payload module at its San Diego, California, site.
For the Delta IV rocket, Orbital ATK provided four 60-inch diameter Graphite Epoxy Motors (GEM-60). The 53-foot-long solid rocket boosters burned for 90 seconds and provided more than 1.1 million pounds of thrust, more than the combined thrust of four 747 jet aircraft.
In addition to the GEM-60 propulsion, Orbital ATK supplied a combined eighteen Delta IV and GEM-60 key composite structures, which provide lower weight and higher performance.
The largest composite structures are five meters in diameter, range from one to fourteen meters in length, and are produced using either advanced wet winding or hand layup, machining and inspection techniques at Orbital ATK’s manufacturing facilities in Iuka, Mississippi, and Clearfield, Utah.
Orbital ATK also manufactured the propellant tank for the Delta IV upper stage roll control system at the company’s Commerce, California, facility, and it designed and manufactured the nozzles for Delta IV’s RS-68A liquid engine and GEM-60 solid motors at its Promontory, Utah, facility.
Orbital ATK also designed and produced the nozzle’s thermal protection material, which is capable of shielding the nozzle from the extreme heat of launch, when external temperatures can exceed 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
The WGS-9 satellite is part of a larger system that increases military communications capabilities for U.S. and allied forces deployed worldwide.
As the backbone of the U.S. military’s global satellite communications, WGS provides flexible, high-capacity communications for the Nation’s warfighters through procurement and operation of the satellite constellation and the associated control systems.
WGS provides worldwide flexible, high data rate and long haul communications for marines, soldiers, sailors, airmen, the White House Communication Agency, the US State Department, international partners, and other special users.
The common booster core was powered by an RS-68A liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine producing 705,250 pounds of thrust at sea level. A single RL10B-2 liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine powered the second stage.
The booster and upper stage engines are both built by Aerojet Rocketdyne. ULA constructed the Delta IV Medium+ (5,4) launch vehicle in Decatur, Alabama.
This is ULA’s 3rd launch in 2017 and the 118th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.
“Thank you to the women and men of United Launch Alliance and all of our teammates who have worked tirelessly together to ensure today’s mission success,” said Laura Maginnis.
“The team’s number one priority was safely and reliably delivering one of our nation’s most critical satellites.”
WGS-9, the third Block II Follow-on satellite, supports communications links in the X-band and Ka-band spectra.
The WGS-9 satellite will be able filter and downlink up to 8.088 GHz of bandwidth. WGS satellites are an important element of a new high-capacity satellite communications system providing enhanced communications capability to our troops in the field.
The EELV program was established by the U.S. Air Force to provide assured access to space for Department of Defense and other government payloads.
The commercially developed EELV program supports the full range of government mission requirements, while delivering on schedule and providing significant cost savings over the heritage launch systems.
With more than a century of combined heritage, United Launch Alliance is the nation’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider.
ULA has successfully delivered more than 115 satellites to orbit that provide critical capabilities for troops in the field, aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, enable personal device-based GPS navigation and unlock the mysteries of our solar system.