A military Delta 4 rocket carries the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS-3) satellite into orbit for the Department of Defense at 8:47 p.m. from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on 5 December 2009. Images from this very windy, cold weather launch show, clockwise from upper left, the rocket on the pad, the moment of liftoff, and a close-up of the engines and exhaust plumes. The bottom image is a time exposure showing the rocket’s trajectory as it arcs out over the Atlantic Ocean towards the south-east. Thank you to Susan Boyd for her invaluable off-site countdown commentary.

Following is an excerpt from a U.S. Air Force press release about WGS-3: “WGS satellites are designed to provide high-capacity communications to our nation's military forces. They will augment and eventually replace the aging Defense Satellite Communication System, which has been the Department of Defense's backbone for satellite communications over the past two decades. The satellite provides a giant leap in communications bandwidth and technology.

First launched in 2007, WGS will be a constellation of five satellites that will supply service for military leaders to command and control their tactical forces. WGS-3 will round out the remainder of the first phase of satellites.”

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