CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (FOX 13) - A military communications satellite blasted into space Friday in one of the final Delta IV rocket launches, putting on a spectacular evening show along the Florida coast.
The tenth Wideband Global SATCOM satellite, known as WGS-10, is on its way to geostationary orbit, 22,000 miles above the earth. It will join the other satellites in the Department of Defense’s network to link up military ships, aircraft, and even individual soldiers.
A series of minor technical delays pushed the countdown past sunset, but United Launch Alliance engineers worked through the issues and the 22-story rocket blasted from Pad 37 at 8:26 p.m.. The solid rocket boosters brightened the sky as thousands of spring break tourists watched from clogged roads and beaches along the state’s east coast.
It was the second-to-last launch for the ‘medium’ single-core version of the Delta IV rocket. After 16 years and 27 launches, ULA is retiring the Delta IV to focus on Atlas rockets, which are more competitive with companies like SpaceX, while also working on a next-generation rocket called Vulcan.
The ‘heavy’ version of the Delta IV – a triple core version with heavy-lift capabilities – will remain available for military and NASA missions as needed.
The final Delta IV medium launch will carry a GPS satellite into space later this year.
The next scheduled launch from Cape Canaveral is in April – the second flight of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, carrying a communications satellite for Saudi Arabia.