Aerospace Board of Trustees Watches WGS-8 Launch

The WGS-8 satellite, encapsulated in its payload fairing, is attached atop a Delta IV rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. (Photo: United Launch Alliance, LLC)

A Delta IV rocket roared into the darkened Florida spacecoast sky Wednesday evening carrying the latest Wideband Global SATCOM satellite for the U.S. Air Force.

For the first time ever, the Aerospace board of trustees — in El Segundo for their quarterly meeting — was able to see the Aerospace launch team in action as they viewed the WGS-8 launch from the Stars Mission Operations Center gallery.

After a very smooth countdown and a flawless launch, the WGS-8 satellite was successfully placed in orbit 42 minutes after its launch at 3:53 p.m. Pacific time.

“It’s always fantastic to be able to deliver new capability to the warfighter, and it was even more special to have our board there to witness the great work of the team as well,” said Randy Kendall, Aerospace vice president of Space Launch Operations.

The rocket flew in the Medium Plus (5,4) configuration with a five-meter payload fairing and four solid rocket boosters to augment its liquid hydrogen-fueled RS-68A main engine. It is the sixth time this configuration of the Delta IV has flown, all of them WGS missions. It is the most powerful Delta IV, next to the Heavy, and is the fastest launcher of all the Delta IV and Atlas V versions, clocked at zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.6 seconds.

In the final seconds of the countdown, the main engine ignited at six seconds before liftoff, creating a large Delta IV signature fireball at the base of the rocket. As the main engine throttled up to full power, the four strap-on solid motors lit and four hold-down bolts were released at T-minus zero seconds, allowing the rocket to speed off of Cape Canaveral’s pad 37B.

The WGS satellite constellation is the communications backbone for the U.S. military and its allies. The satellite was built by Boeing at its Satellite Development Center in El Segundo, the world’s largest satellite factory.