The newly-established US Space Force has launched its first national security satellite, with a leaner staff because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Nothing stops the space launch mission”, the 45th Space Wing tweeted from Cape Canaveral.
The one billion US dollars satellite is the sixth and final one in the US military’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency series.
Upgraded from the older Milstar satellites, the constellation has provided secure communication from 22,000 miles above the Earth for nearly a decade.
— ULA (@ulalaunch) March 24, 2020
A powerful Atlas V rocket hoisted the 6,168 kilogram satellite. The new Space Force seal adorned the United Launch Alliance rocket.
The Space Force officially became a new branch of the US military in December.
With the viewing area closed because of the coronavirus outbreak, fewer people than usual watched the lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
United Launch Alliance chief executive Tory Bruno said non-essential personnel were banned from the launch control room to reduce the size of the crowd.
“Can’t quite get 6ft everywhere. Surfaces will be cleaned between people, etc,” tweeted Mr Bruno, who monitored the launch from company headquarters in Denver. He normally travels to the launch site.