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WGS-8 military satellite goes into orbit

WGS-8 launch
A United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket is wrapped in flame as it lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, sending the Wideband Global Satcom 8 satellite into space. (ULA via YouTube)

An advanced satellite for battlefield communications, known as Wideband Global Satcom-8, rose into orbit tonight from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

WGS-8 is the eighth satellite in what’s expected to be a 10-satellite constellation designed to provide secure channels for command and control as well as battle management and combat support.

The satellite was built by the Boeing Co. and launched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Medium rocket at 6:53 p.m. ET (3:53 p.m. PT). A little more than 40 minutes after launch, WGS-8 successfully separated from the Delta’s upper stage, clearing the way for its transfer to geostationary orbit.

The first satellite in the Wideband Global Satcom system was launched in 2007, and the constellation is expected to be complete in 2019. Each WGS satellite has 10 times the capacity of the Defense Satellite Communication System satellites that preceded them.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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