By Irene Klotz – Reuters
An unmanned Delta 4 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Monday with a pair of U.S. military satellites designed to keep watch on other countries’ spacecraft.
The 206-foot (63-meter) tall rocket, built by United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, lifted off at 7:28 p.m. EDT and blazed through partly cloudy skies as it headed into orbit, a United Launch Alliance live webcast showed.
Launch of two satellites for the U.S. Air Force’s recently declassified Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program, or GSSAP, had been slated for July 23, but was delayed one day to resolve a technical issue with ground support equipment and then three more times by poor weather.
Once in orbit, the GSSAP satellites, built by Orbital Sciences Corp, will drift above and below a 22,300-mile (35,970-km) high zone that houses most of the world’s communications satellites and other spacecraft.
General William Shelton, head of Air Force Space Command, likened GSSAP to a “neighborhood watch program” that will keep tabs on other countries’ satellites.