$900M Military communications satellite takes to the sky

Third in a series of high-speed, state-of-the-art relay stations

$900M Military communications satellite takes to the sky

An unmanned Atlas 5 rocket lifts off, launching a new military communications satellite, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Friday, July 19, 2013, in Cape Canaveral, Fla (AP Photo/John Raoux)

By William Harwood
CBS

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATIONA United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket boosted a $900 million military communications satellite into orbit early Wednesday, the third in a series of high-speed, state-of-the-art relay stations shared by the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Running more than an hour late because of clouds and high upper level winds, the Atlas 5's Russian-designed RD-180 first stage engine ignited with a torrent of fiery exhaust at 4:10 a.m. EDT and the 197-foot-tall rocket vaulted away from pad 41.

Tucked inside a protective nose cone was the third Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications satellite, which will join two other AEHF relay stations and work with older MILSTAR satellites, providing jam-resistant, encrypted communications for military units around the world. A fourth AEHF satellite is scheduled for launch in the 2016-2017 timeframe.

The Lockheed Martin satellites are "connecting more users and more countries than ever before, our on-orbit operations are providing superior voice and data to terminals at sea, in the air and on the ground and, for the first time this year, we're connecting our allies across multiple platforms," said Mark Calassa, Lockheed Martin vice president for Protected Communication Systems.

Full story: $900M Military communications satellite launched