ULA Delta IV ready to launch WGS-10 satellite
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket is poised to launch the 10th Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS-10) satellite for the United States Air Force.
Following a two-day delay to allow for additional troubleshooting to resolve off-nominal data indications with the rocket, the launch is now scheduled for 6:56 p.m. EST (22:56 GMT) Friday, March 15, 2019. ULA has a two-hour, nine-minute window to get the rocket off the ground before standing down for roughly 24 hours.
This will be the eighth flight of the Delta IV in the Medium+ (5,4) configuration sporting four additional solid rocket boosters for additional thrust at liftoff. According to ULA, all of the previous Delta IV launches in this configuration have lofted other WGS satellites into orbit.
WGS is currently the highest capacity satellite communication system for the U.S. Department of Defense. The first spacecraft in this series, a Block I satellite, was launched Oct. 7, 2007, aboard an Atlas V rocket.
The state-of-the-art WGS satellites are built on the Boeing 702 platform and are a vast improvement over the satellites they were designed to replace. The Block I WGS satellites provided more than 10 times the communications capacity of the predecessor DSCS III satellites.
WGS-10 is a Block II follow-on spacecraft, the fourth to be deployed into the constellation. The satellites provide communications in the X-band and Ka-band spectrum, however the Block I previously deployed can filter and downlink up to 4.41 GHz while WGS-10 can downlink nearly double that at 8.09 Ghz of bandwidth.
WGS has 19 independent coverage areas, 18 of which can be positioned throughout its field-of-view. It can tailor coverage areas and connect X-band and Ka-band users anywhere within its field-of-view. The X-band phased array antenna also enables anti-jam functionality without sacrificing performance, according to ULA’s mission overview.
According to ULA, while there are many variables that affect the actual transmission rate of the WGS satellites such as the mix of ground terminals, data rates, and the modulation and coding schemes employed, WGS-10 can support a transmission rate of over 11 Gigabytes per second, which is nearly double the previous WGS satellites who top out at around 6 Gbps.
Five Army Wideband SATCOM Operations Centers located in strategic locations around the world provide round-the-clock payload monitoring and command and control of the WGS constellation.
WGS-10 was built by Boeing and was delivered in November 2018. After encapsulation, it was hoisted aboard the Delta IV rocket on Feb. 26, 2019. The rocket stands ready to fly from Launch Complex 37 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
As with most launches from the Cape, the Air Force 45th Space Wing will support the WGS-10 launch.
At T-minus two days, the launch forecast calls for a 70 percent chance of favorable weather conditions with the major concern being a violation of the cumulus cloud rule. Weather conditions deteriorate for Saturday with only a 40 percent chance of favorable conditions.
Video courtesy of ULA
Lloyd Campbell’s first interest in space began when he was a very young boy in the 1960s with NASA’s Gemini and Apollo programs. That passion continued in the early 1970s with our continued exploration of our Moon, and was renewed by the Shuttle Program. Having attended the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on its final two missions, STS-131, and STS-133, he began to do more social networking on space and that developed into writing more in-depth articles. Since then he’s attended the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, the agency’s new crew-rated Orion spacecraft on Exploration Flight Test 1, and multiple other uncrewed launches. In addition to writing, Lloyd has also been doing more photography of launches and aviation. He enjoys all aspects of space exploration, both human, and robotic, but his primary passions lie with human exploration and the vehicles, rockets, and other technologies that allow humanity to explore space.