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US Space Force launches first mission despite coronavirus
[WASHINGTON] The United States Space Force launched its first national security mission Thursday, sending an ultra-secure military communication satellite into orbit even as the coronavirus pandemic paralyzes much of the country.
The Lockheed Martin Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 4.18pm (2018 GMT) aboard an Atlas V551 rocket.
AEHF-6, as the satellite is called, is the sixth and final in the Lockheed Martin AEHF constellation.
It will join the other five, which were launched between 2010 and 2019, on Friday around 0400 GMT after reaching geostationary orbit.
The satellite constellation provides "global, survivable, protected communications capabilities for strategic command and tactical warfighters operating on ground, sea and air platforms," according to Lockheed Martin.
And it gives "senior leadership a survivable line of communications to military forces in all levels of conflict, including nuclear war," it said.
The system features encryption, a low probability of interception and detection, and it is jammer-resistant and able to penetrate the electro-magnetic interference caused by nuclear weapons, it added.
The White House announced the creation of the new Space Force military arm in December, with President Donald Trump calling space "the world's newest warfighting domain."