Air Force to Launch Missile-Warning Satellite Tonight

DSP and SBIRS constellation

United Launch Alliance plans to send a satellite into space for the U.S. Air Force, which, if successful, would mark the return to launches for Cape Canaveral.

The ULA Atlas V rocket is set for liftoff on Thursday, Jan. 19 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The United Launch Alliance booster will deploy US military satellite on January 19, departing from Cape Canaveral during a 40-minute launch window that opens at 7:46 p.m. EST (0046 GMT).

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The backup launch opportunity is on Friday.

Friday's launch is expected to be live-streamed on the ULA website and YouTube pages. ULA's coverage of the launch begins at 7:26PM ET, so check back then to watch the Atlas V take flight. SBIRS GEO-3 is the third SBIRS satellite that will go to a geosynchronous orbit - a path 22,000 miles above the Earth's surface in which spacecraft match the planet's rotation. The other two satellites that are already there are GEO-1 and GEO-2 launched in 2011 and 2013, respectively.

According to a ULA press release, SBIRS, considered one of the nation's highest priority space programs, is created to provide global, persistent, infrared surveillance capabilities to meet 21st century demands in four national security mission areas including: missile warning, missile defense, technical intelligence and battlespace awareness. SBIRS GEO-5 and GEO-6 are now in production. Each satellite has a mass of about 4.5 tons (4.4 Imperial tons, 5.0 USA tons) and comes with a design which will last for 12 years.

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