DONALD Trump's fledgling "Space Force" will today fire four top-secret satellites into orbit from a launchpad in Virginia, Nasa has announced.
A Minotaur IV rocket will carry the classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office, the US agency tasked with operating spy satellites.
If successful, the mission will mark the first time the US Space Force has launched from Nasa's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia.
"It’s a go for launch of a Northrop Grumman Minotaur IV rocket July 15 from Nasa’s Wallops Flight Facility," Nasa wrote in a press release.
"The weather continues to look favourable for the launch."
The Space Force was officially established in December 2019 and is the first new military service since the Air Force launched in 1947.
The 16,000 airmen and civilians that make up the Space Force are technically part of the Air Force — which previously oversaw offensive operations in space.
But President Donald Trump has made it clear he sees the newest service as critical to the future of American defense.
As well as spy satellites, the agency is helping to develop and operate technologies for space warfare.
The window for today's launch opens at 9am ET (2pm BST). The official liftoff time is classified.
A 78-foot tall Minotaur IV will fire into space powered by engines pinched from decommissioned Cold War Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles.
According to SpaceFlightNow, four payloads for the National Reconnaissance Office are awaiting liftoff.
The satellites were designed, built and operated by the NRO, which has not disclosed their purpose.
Dubbed NROL-129, the mission “supports NRO’s overall national security mission to provide intelligence data to United States’ senior policy makers, the Intelligence Community and Department of Defense,” the NRO said.
“The team is really excited and ready to get going here on this mission,” Northrop Grumman's Kurt Eberly said.
The Minotaur rocket family uses retired motors from Minuteman and Peacekeeper missiles built to carry nuclear warheads.
In total, 26 of the rockets have launched since 2000, 16 of which have sent satellites into orbit.
Terrifying space weapons of the future
Here are three of the scariest…
Rods from God
- A strange but utterly terrifying weapon has been dubbed "rods from the God" and is based on the concept of creating man-made meteorites that can be guided towards the enemy.
- Instead of using rocks rods the size of telephone poles are deployed.
- These would be made out of tungsten — a rare metal that can stand the intense heat generated by entering Earth's atmosphere.
- One satellite fires the rods towards the Earth's atmosphere while the other steers them to a target on the ground.
- Reaching speeds of 7000mph they hit the ground with the force of a small nuclear weapon — but crucially creating no radiation fall out.
- As bizarre as it sounds, a US Congressional report recently revealed the military has been pushing ahead with the kinetic space weapons.
Molten metal cannons
- This intriguing idea is being developed by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
- It is called the Magneto Hydrodynamic Explosive Munition or MAHEM.
- This game changing rail-gun can fire a jet of molten metal, hurled through space at several hundred miles per second by the most powerful electromagnets ever built.
- The molten metal can then morph into an aerodynamic slug during flight and pierce through another spacecraft or satellite and a munition explodes inside.
Space force ships
- Already the United States is powering head with its spacecraft, although China is busy developing one of their own.
- The top secret American XS-1 under development by DARPA.
- It can travel ten times the speed of sound and launch missiles.
- Meanwhile an unmanned craft is currently being developed in the China Aerodynamics Research and Development Centre in Mianyang, Sichuan province, which is also known as Base 29.
In other news, SpaceX’s huge Starship rocket that will one day take man to Mars is reportedly set for its first test flight this week.
Nasa has revealed the design of a moon lander that could be taking astronauts back to the lunar surface by 2024.
The space agency also recently released an unusual image of the "death explosion" of a massive star that looks just like a bat.
What do you think the satellite is for? Let us know in the comments!
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