Science

Watch an Atlas V rocket launch a missile warning satellite for the US Space Force on Thursday.

United Launch Alliance (ULA) will launch the US Space Force (USSF) missile warning satellite on Thursday morning (August 4) and you can watch it live.

The 194-foot (59-meter) Atlas V rocket is scheduled to launch from the Space Force Station at Cape Canaveral, Florida between 6:29 am and 7:09 am EST (10:29 am to 11:09 am GMT). The rocket will carry the Flight 6 Space Infrared Geosynchronous Earth Orbiting System (SBIRS Geo-6) satellite into orbit on behalf of the Space Force, complementing a new critical missile detection and early warning system.

Previously, the launch of SBIRS Geo-6 was planned for June 18 and July 31, but these attempts were postponed for unspecified reasons. Forecasters from the 45th Space Force Weather Squadron forecast a 70 percent chance of favorable weather Thursday morning, according to a ULA statement. (will open in a new tab).

Watch it live here on Space.com, courtesy of ULA, or directly through the company. (will open in a new tab).

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SBIRS system developed by Lockheed Martin (will open in a new tab), designed to replace the aging Defense Support Program (DSP) early warning satellites, the first of which was launched over 50 years ago. Following the successful launch of SBIRS Geo-6 on Thursday, the SBIRS constellation will consist of three satellites in geosynchronous orbit (GEO) and two additional secret satellites in highly elliptical orbits (HEO) around the poles. The first satellite in the constellation was launched in 2011, and the most recent, SBIRS Geo-5, was launched into orbit aboard an Atlas V in May 2021, also from the Space Force Station at Cape Canaveral.

SBIRS Geo-6 and other GEO satellites in the system are equipped with a scanning infrared sensor that “continuously scans the Earth to provide a 24/7 global strategic missile warning capability” to the US defense and intelligence communities, according to the fact sheet. (will open in a new tab) issued by the US Air Force.

“This launch represents the completion of the production and launch phase and the start of the critical missile detection and early warning satellite mission,” the major said. This was at a briefing before the launch on Monday (August 1), said Space Force Command (SSC) program manager Matt Blayston, according to Breaking Defense. (will open in a new tab).

SBIRS GEO-6 is ULA’s fifth launch of 2022 and the penultimate national security launch to be carried out on an Atlas 5 rocket before the launch provider switches to its new Vulcan Centaur. The last two Pentagon launches aboard the Atlas V are scheduled for 2023.

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