While the majority of the country remains in a terrifying holding pattern of uncertainty regarding physical and financial health, one program from "the before time" is proceeding as planned.
The United States Space Force will launch its first official mission this afternoon from Cape Canaveral, Florida, sending a massive military communications satellite into orbit. President of the United Launch Alliance Tony Bruno expressed his excitement over the launch and what it will mean for the future of military communication.
"We're launching a giant spacecraft into space," Bruno told the Washington Free Beacon. "This is the most sophisticated, most powerful communications satellite that has ever been launched...All the way around the world, our troops can be communicated with, can have the high bandwidth, back-and-forth comms, imaging, and intelligence that they require, right down to a guy in a tent with a handset who's doing his thing."
The Space Force satellite, weighing in at 14,500 pounds, will be fastened to the Atlas V 551 rocket, the largest in the ULA fleet of high powered rockets. "The Bruiser," as Bruno affectionally calls the rocket, weighs a stunning 1.2 million pounds while on earth. The launch is expected to produce 2.25 million pounds of thrust.
The United States is currently the only nation with a branch of the military dedicated to space defense, having launched the Space Force in December of 2019. Russia had previously dedicated a portion of their armed services to a national Space Force but folded their last attempt in 2011.
While some Cape Canaveral employees are working from home through the launch, more than 300 people will be needed on site to get the rocket into orbit. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommend that no more than 10 people congregate in one space because of the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic.
Brig. Gen. General Doug Schiess of the 45th Space Wing offered reassurance, however, that the launch team would observe safe distance protocols during the operation to curb the potential of viral spread.
"We sit right next to each other, but we have the ability to spread out because of the number of consoles, and so we’re going to spread out for that," Schiess said.
Florida Senator and former Governor Rick Scott (R) shared his excitement about the launch on Twitter Thursday morning.
"Today, @SpaceForceDOD will perform its first launch from Cape Canaveral! Florida is proud to be a part of this moment in history!" he said.
The satellite launch is considered a military and defensive priority for the United States as it greatly increases the ability for the Pentagon to communicate with commanders overseas as well as ground forces. The USSF schedule for the remainder of the year is also expected to go forward as scheduled, regardless of the future of the pandemic within the USA.
The launch is scheduled to take place at 2:47 pm EDT from Cape Canaveral. The event will be live streamed for viewers but the crowds that have become an iconic fixture of space launches at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral will be closed because of fears of spending the Wuhan Coronavirus. Coverage of the launch begins just after 2:30 p.m. and updates from the control center at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base will be posted throughout the day.