A new date has been established for United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) launch of AEHF-6 for the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center. The launch to be postponed due to a mechanical malfunction.
ULA attributed the technical problem to a faulty booster valve. The new sendoff date is Thursday, March 26. The team needed additional time to complete the booster valve replacement and retest. The two-hour launch window starts at 2:57 p.m. ET.
United Launch Alliance will use an Atlas V 551 rocket to launch the sixth and final spacecraft in the Lockheed Martin-built Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) series for the U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center. AEHF satellites provide global, survivable, protected communications capabilities for strategic command and tactical warfighters operating on ground, sea and air platforms. Atlas V rockets successfully launched the first five AEHF satellites between 2010 and 2019.
Also onboard will be TDO-2, the multi-manifest smallsat vehicle flying with the AEHF-6 mission, that is carrying multiple U.S. Government payloads that will provide optical calibration capabilities that will support space domain awareness through optical calibration and satellite laser ranging. TDO-2 was manufactured by Georgia Institute of Technology and sponsored by Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).
EZ-2 is integrated on the aft-end of the Centaur on the Atlas V 551 launch vehicle where it will deploy the TDO-2 multi-manifest satellite vehicle approximately 31 minutes after launch.
TDO-2 will deploy after Main Engine Cut Off (MECO) 2 and prior to the anchor AEHF satellite, which is only the second time this event has occurred during a National Security Space Launch mission. Previously, a hosted payload was deployed prior to AEHF-5 successfully separating.
The AEHF-6 launch will mark the 83rd Atlas V mission since the inaugural launch in 2002 and the 11th in the 551 configuration.