A United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket carrying a pair of US Air Force GSSAP satellites launches the evening of July 28 from Cape Canaveral. (United Launch Alliance)
WASHINGTON — The US Air Force’s new geosynchronous spy satellite is on its way into orbit.
A pair of Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) satellites were successfully launched July 28 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket.
The launch was originally scheduled for Wednesday, July 23, but a series of bad weather systems scrubbed the mission for several days.
“The ULA team is proud to have delivered the twin Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) spacecraft to orbit today,” Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president for Atlas and Delta programs, said in a company press release. “We are privileged to work with a top notch U.S. government and contractor mission team that is committed to mission success.”
GSSAP will provide increased situational awareness of what other nations are doing in the geosynchronous orbit, something the outgoing head of US Air Force Space Command said is necessary in an increasingly contested space environment.
“This neighborhood watch twosome will help protect our previous assets in geo, plus they will be on the lookout for nefarious capability other nations may try to place in that critical orbital regime,” Gen. William Shelton told reporters July 22. “We will learn a great deal about the geo traffic with the images produced from these two satellites.”
The program, which was classified until February, has proved controversial among space observers who warn the maneuverability of the satellites could lead other countries to view them as an offensive system. ■