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US Space Force completes its first satellite launch for military communications

The US Space Force has undergone its first satellite launch despite complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket blasted into space yesterday afternoon taking off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

It carried with it the sixth and last satellite making up the US’s 'Advanced Extremely High Frequency' (AEHF) satellite constellation.

The satellites will be used to relay secure communications for the Armed Forces of the United States, the British Armed Forces, the Canadian Armed Forces, the Royal Netherlands Armed Forces and the Australian Defence Force.

They are replacing the older Milstar satellites, the constellation has provided secure communication from 22,000 miles above the Earth for nearly a decade.

AEHF satellites use narrow spot beams directed towards the Earth to relay communications to and from users. Crosslinks between the satellites allow them to relay communications directly rather than via a ground station. This helps to make them jam-resistant and with a low probability of interception.

The launch team for the rocket was leaner than usual due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“Nothing stops the space launch mission,” the 45th Space Wing tweeted from Cape Canaveral.

The powerful Atlas V rocket hoisted the 6,168kg satellite, which came adorned with the new Space Force seal.

The Space Force officially became a new branch of the US military in December after President Donald Trump ordered its creation in 2018.

It is the sixth branch of the US Armed Forces but is independent from the rest.

Yesterday’s lift off was a more subdued affair than normal as the viewing area was closed to maintain social-distancing measures.

United Launch Alliance chief executive Tory Bruno said non-essential personnel were banned from the launch control room to reduce the size of the crowd.

“Can’t quite get 6ft everywhere. Surfaces will be cleaned between people, etc,” he tweeted.

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