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ULA’s first mission of the year will launch pair of Space Force satellites to track orbital traffic

ULA's Atlas V rocket rolls out to the pad ahead of the USSF-8 mission. Photo: ULA

United Launch Alliance is set to kick off its year of 11 planned launches with a mission Friday afternoon for the U.S. Space Force.

The company’s Atlas V rocket is launching two identical satellites into orbit for the Space Force and Department of Defense.

The two satellites will keep a watchful eye on other satellites in space. The Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) is helping the military track orbital traffic from some 22,300 miles above Earth. The program tracks orbital objects and warns satellite operators if any will pass too closely together, which could be hazardous for orbiting spacecraft.

The launch is targeting a 2 p.m. ET launch window from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Forecasters say weather is favorable but meteorologists will keep an eye on cloud cover during the launch window.

ULA says there are 11 launches on its manifest this year. Last year the company launched five missions with a 100 percent success rate.

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Brendan Byrne

About Brendan Byrne

Space Reporter and 'Are We There Yet?' Host

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration. Brendan is a native Floridian, born and raised in Broward County. He moved to ... Read Full Bio »