ULA to launch two new Space Force tracking satellites into orbit

ORLANDO, Fla., Jan. 21 (UPI) — United Launch Alliance plans to send two space tracking satellites into orbit for the U.S. Space Force from Florida on Friday afternoon.

The Atlas V rocket is scheduled for liftoff at 2 p.m. EST from Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station near Kennedy Space Center.

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The satellites, GSSAP-5 and GSSAP-6, will join four similar spacecraft in a high orbit around the Earth. They are designed to track manmade objects, or other spacecraft, in orbit.

“Our #AtlasV 511 rocket has arrived at its Cape Canaveral launch pad for Friday’s liftoff to deliver two space-surveillance satellites directly into geosynchronous orbit for more accurate tracking and characterization of human-made orbiting objects,” ULA posted on Twitter on Thursday.

Weather for the launch includes a 30% chance that thick clouds could prompt a delay, according to a Space Force forecast. Another attempt is scheduled 24 hours later in the event of a scrub.

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Specifics about the spacecraft and their design are classified. But the system is designed to enhance “knowledge of the geosynchronous orbit environment, and further [enable] spaceflight safety to include satellite collision avoidance,” according to the Space Force.

The GSSAP spacecraft also have the ability to fire thrusters and move near a suspicious or unknown object to investigate it, the Space Force says in its program description.

The Atlas rocket will fly in a 511 configuration, the first time it has, according to ULA. That means the rocket has one solid booster strapped to it. The company didn’t immediately respond to further questions about that configuration.

ULA plans to transition to a new rocket, the Vulcan, sometime this year.

The International Space Station is pictured from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour during a flyaround of the orbiting lab that took place following its undocking from the Harmony module’s space-facing port on November 8. Photo courtesy of NASA

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