COLORADO SPRINGS — A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on April 11 launched a U.S. Space Force weather monitoring satellite. The vehicle lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, at 7:25 a.m. Pacific. 

The USSF-62 mission flew to orbit the U.S. military’s first Weather System Follow-on Microwave (WSF-M) satellite. 

Made by Ball Aerospace — a company recently acquired by BAE Systems — WSF-M has a microwave imager instrument to collect weather data including the measurement of ocean surface wind speed and direction, ice thickness, snow depth, soil moisture and local space weather. 

The spacecraft will operate in a low polar orbit. The Space Force has ordered a second WSF-M satellite, projected to be delivered by 2028. These satellites are part of a broader effort to modernize the military’s space-based environmental monitoring assets.

Data used for military planning

“The data gathered by WSF-M will be provided to meteorologists in support of the generation of a wide variety of weather products necessary to conduct mission planning and operations globally every day,” the U.S. Space Force said. 

Just under eight minutes after liftoff and payload separation, the Falcon 9’s first stage flew back to Earth and landed at Vandenberg’s Landing Zone 4.

USSF-62 is the 37th launch performed by SpaceX so far in 2024 and its second national security space launch mission of the year. In February SpaceX launched the USSF-124 mission from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, deploying six U.S. missile defense satellites for the Space Development Agency and the Missile Defense Agency.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...