The U.S. Space Force embarked on its first mission this week as a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying a USSF communications satellite lifted off from Cape Canaveral Thursday afternoon.
A hydraulic fault delayed the countdown for 80 minutes, according to the BBC. However, “The success of [this] launch is the culmination of years of dedication, hard work, and teamwork with several of our mission partners,” said Gen Jay Raymond, chief of space operations at the USSF, in a statement. “We greatly appreciate the collaboration with the ULA team who all contributed to this historic, first National Security Space launch under the U.S. Space Force.”
President Trump in February 2019 signed a directive to establish a new branch of the military dedicated to handling threats in space. With Congressional approval, the United States Space Force was established on Dec. 20. The sixth and youngest branch of the U.S. Armed Forces has the authority to “organize, train, and equip military space forces … to ensure unfettered access to, and freedom to operate in space, and to provide vital capabilities to joint and coalition forces in peacetime and across the spectrum of conflict.”
“Congratulations to the U.S. Space Force on liftoff of your first mission,” ULA CEO Tory Bruno said. “We understand the critical importance of delivering protected communications to strategic command and tactical warfighters operating on ground, sea, and air.”
This week’s dispatch marks the 83rd successful lift off of an Atlas V rocket, and ULA’s 138th launch. The firm is scheduled to send off an Atlas V 501 as part of another USSF event in May.
Since its establishment last year, the sixth division of the U.S. Armed Forces has been mercilessly mocked—first for its camouflage uniforms, then for its near-exact replica of Star Trek‘s Starfleet Command logo. President Trump first floated the idea of launching a space force to fight cosmic enemies in early 2018. A year before, the House Armed Services Committee voted to create a U.S. Space Corps, which would absorb the Air Force’s existing celestial missions.
The president also recently reactivated the Cold War-era U.S. Space Command, founded in 1985 to provide joint command and control of the Air Force, Army, and Navy’s space forces. It has since been restored under the authority of Gen. Jay Raymond.