Updated 11:53 AM payload separation
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket on Thursday launched the fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-5) communications satellite for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. The Atlas 5 in the 551 configuration with five solid rocket boosters lifted off at 6:13 AM EST from Space Launch Complex-41 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
Approximately five hours, 40 minutes after launch, AEHF-5 separated and was deployed into space.
AEHF satellites provide secure, jam-proof connectivity for U.S. national leadership and deployed military forces. Atlas V rockets successfully launched the first four AEHF satellites in 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2018.
The AEHF-5 launch marks the 80th Atlas 5 mission since the inaugural launch in 2002 and the 10th in the 551 configuration with the Centaur upper stage and a five-meter diameter payload fairing.
The 6,500 kg. AEHF-5 completes a geostationary ring of five satellites providing global coverage for the United States and international partners Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
The Atlas 5 rocket’s Centaur upper stage completed first burn at 6:25 AM. At 6:29 AM launch data showed that the first burn by Centaur inserted the rocket into the target orbit as planned. The second main engine cutoff was confirmed for Centaur at 6:42 AM, completing the next step towards the targeted orbit to deploy AEHF-5. The rocket then began a five-hour coast away from Earth to reach the proper point in space for the third burn by the upper stage.
Thursday’s launch was the 251st flight of the hydrogen-fueled Centaur. For this mission, it carried an experimental cubesat as a rideshare payload.