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ULA targeting first launch for the US Space Force this afternoon during pandemic

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The United Launch Alliance is on track to launch a communications satellite for the US Space Force out of Cape Canaveral, Florida this afternoon — the corporate’s first flight for the newly minted army department. The flight is occurring towards the background of the COVID-19 pandemic that has compelled different rocket corporations to face down from their missions to house.

For ULA, the pandemic has not stopped the corporate’s skill to maneuver ahead with launch preparations, although they did make some changes to guard their employees. In early March, earlier than state governments began issuing lockdowns, ULA CEO Tory Bruno stated that the corporate had issued new precautions in response to the outbreak, resembling limiting how many individuals could possibly be in conferences and eliminating all non-essential journey, according to Space News. Nonetheless, journey related to upcoming launches — resembling touring to launch websites — was thought-about important, he stated.

ULA confirmed that these insurance policies are nonetheless in place and that the corporate has made it simpler for workers to do business from home. A “cross-functional group” can also be monitoring the scenario and following CDC tips, in accordance with ULA. In the meantime, the corporate is deep cleansing their services each day and quarantining personnel who might have been uncovered to folks with COVID-19.

ULA says it doesn’t anticipate any delays sooner or later. “As for different launches or developments, we’re not presently projecting any disruptions to our manifest,” a ULA spokesperson stated in an announcement. “ULA is working carefully with our mission companions to navigate this unprecedented scenario. We’re working to make sure that we retain a completely functioning mission-essential functionality to help our nation.”

The brand new US House Pressure emblem on the aspect of ULA’s Atlas V rocket
Picture: ULA

Whereas ULA remains to be in a position to launch, different US house corporations are standing down or suspending missions as they begin to really feel the complete weight of the pandemic. Small satellite tv for pc launcher Rocket Lab announced it would delay its upcoming launch out of New Zealand subsequent week so as “to guard the well being of our group members, our households & the neighborhood.” In the meantime, SpaceX’s upcoming launch of a Venezuelan satellite tv for pc has been postponed indefinitely because of restrictions put in place to combat the spread of COVID-19. It’s not simply launch corporations which might be hurting. Bigelow Aerospace, which creates house habitats, laid off its total workforce this week so as to adjust to the Nevada governor’s order to shut all non-essential companies.

Issues may change for ULA sooner or later, however for now, the corporate is able to launch its workhorse Atlas V rocket. The automobile is lofting the sixth Superior Extraordinarily Excessive Frequency satellite tv for pc, or AEHF-6, for the House Pressure. The satellite tv for pc, headed to a excessive orbit above Earth 22,000 miles up, will be a part of the 5 different AEHF satellites already in house that “present international, survivable, protected communications capabilities for strategic command and tactical warfighters working on floor, sea, and air platforms,” in accordance with the corporate. ULA additionally launched all the opposite AEHF satellites.

Takeoff of ULA’s Atlas V is scheduled for two:57PM ET out of Cape Canaveral Air Pressure Station, and the corporate has a two-hour launch window to get the rocket within the air. ULA plans to supply stay protection of the launch beginning at 2:37PM ET, so verify again then to observe the Atlas V take flight.

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