WGS-5 Launched

The Air Force and its industry partners launched WGS-5, the fifth Wideband Global Satellite Communications spacecraft, into orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV booster fired from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. Within an hour of its launch at 8:27 p.m. local time on May 24, controllers in Australia confirmed initial contact with the military communications satellite, indicating that it was “functioning normally and ready to be moved into geosynchronous Earth orbit,” states a release that day from Boeing, the satellite’s manufacturer. WGS-5 should enter operations by the end of 2013, following several months of orbit-raising activities to reach its operational perch and on-orbit testing to verify its performance, according to a release from Air Force space officials at Los Angeles AFB, Calif. WGS-5, which will give the US military and allied militaries greater access to fast, secure communications, joins four WGS satellites already operating on orbit. It is the second WGS spacecraft in the Block II configuration; like WGS-4, it offers more robust communications throughput. The WGS-5 mission was the second space launch from Cape Canaveral in 10 days, following the May 15 launch of the fourth GPS IIF navigation satellite.