Force space

Space Force deploys its first squadron outside of the U.S. – CBS News

Trump launches U.S. Space Command

Trump launches U.S. Space Command


Dubai, United Arab Emirates — The newly formed U.S. Space Force is deploying troops to a vast new frontier: the Arabian Peninsula. Space Force now has a squadron of 20 airmen stationed at Qatar’s Al-Udeid Air Base in its first foreign deployment.

The force, pushed by President Donald Trump, represents the sixth branch of the U.S. military and the first new military service since the creation of the Air Force in 1947.

It has provoked skepticism in Congress, satire on Netflix, and, with its uncannily similar logo, “Star Trek” jokes about intergalactic battles.

Future wars may be waged in outer space, but the Arabian Desert already saw what military experts dub the world’s first “space war” — the 1991 Desert Storm operation to drive Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Today, the U.S. faces new threats in the region from Iran’s missile program and efforts to jam, hack and blind satellites.

“We’re starting to see other nations that are extremely aggressive in preparing to extend conflict into space,” Col. Todd Benson, director of Space Force troops at Al-Udeid, told The Associated Press. “We have to be able to compete and defend and protect all of our national interests.”

In a swearing-in ceremony earlier this month at Al-Udeid, 20 Air Force troops, flanked by American flags and massive satellites, entered Space Force. Soon several more will join the unit of “core space operators” who will run satellites, track enemy maneuvers and try to avert conflicts in space.

Mideast US Space Force
In this photo released by the U.S. Air Force, Col. Todd Benson, the U.S. Air Force Central Command director of space forces, center, leads airmen through their enlistment ceremony as they became members of the Space Force at Al-Udeid Air Base, Qatar, September 1, 2020.

Staff Sgt. Kayla White/AP

“The missions are not new and the people are not necessarily new,” Benson said.

That troubles some American lawmakers who view the branch, with its projected force of 16,000 troops and 2021 budget of $15.4 billion, as a vanity project for Mr. Trump ahead of the November presidential election.

Concerns over the weaponization of outer space are decades old. But as space becomes increasingly contested, military experts have cited the need for a space corps devoted to defending American interests.

Threats from global competitors have grown since the Persian Gulf War in 1991, when the U.S. military first relied on GPS coordinates to tell troops where they were in the desert as they pushed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait.

Benson declined to name the “aggressive” nations his airmen will monitor and potentially combat. But the decision to deploy Space Force personnel at Al-Udeid follows months of escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

Suspicious explosions at Iranian facilities


Hostilities between the two countries, ignited by Mr. Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of the U.S. from Iran’s nuclear accord, came to a head in January when U.S. forces killed a top Iranian general. Iran responded by launching ballistic missiles at American soldiers in Iraq.

This spring, Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard launched its first satellite into space, revealing what experts describe as a secret military space program. The Trump administration has imposed sanctions on Iran’s space agency, accusing it of developing ballistic missiles under the cover of a civilian program to set satellites into orbit.

World powers with more advanced space programs, like Russia and China, have made more threatening progress, U.S. officials contend. Last month, Defense Secretary Mark Esper warned that Russia and China were developing weapons that could knock out U.S. satellites, potentially scattering dangerous debris across space and paralyzing cell phones and weather forecasts, as well as American drones, fighter jets, aircraft carriers and even nuclear weapon controllers.

“The military is very reliant on satellite communications, navigation and global missile warning,” said Capt. Ryan Vickers, a newly inducted Space Force member at Al-Udeid.

American troops, he added, use GPS coordinates to track ships passing through strategic Gulf passageways “to make sure they’re not running into international waters of other nations.”

Jim Sciutto on Russia & China’s “Shadow War”


The Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of the world’s oil flows, has been the scene of a series of tense encounters, with Iran seizing boats it claims had entered its waters. One disrupted signal or miscalculation could touch off a confrontation.

For years, Iran has allegedly jammed satellite and radio signals to block foreign-based Farsi media outlets from broadcasting into the Islamic Republic, where radio and television stations are state-controlled.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has warned that commercial aircraft cruising over the Persian Gulf could experience interference and communications jamming from Iran. Ships in the region have also reported “spoofed” communications from unknown entities falsely claiming to be U.S. or coalition warships, according to American authorities.

“It’s not that hard to do, but we’ve seen Iran and other countries become pretty darn efficient at doing it on a big scale,” said Brian Weeden, an Air Force veteran and director of program planning at the Secure World Foundation, which promotes peaceful uses of outer space. “There’s a concern Iran could interfere with military broadband communications.”

Mideast US Space Force
In this photo released by the U.S. Air Force, Capt. Ryan Vickers stands for a photo to display his new service tapes after taking his oath of office to transfer from the U.S. Air Force to the U.S. Space Force at Al-Udeid Air Base, Qatar, September 1, 2020.

Staff Sgt. Kayla White/AP

Responding to questions from the AP, Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman at Iran’s mission to the United Nations, said “Iran will not tolerate interference in our affairs, and in accordance with international law, will respond to any attacks against our sovereignty.” He added that Iran has faced numerous cyber attacks from the U.S. and Israel.

Failing an international agreement that bars conventional arms, like ballistic missiles, from shooting down space assets, the domain will only become more militarized, said Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association. Russia and China have already created space force units and the Revolutionary Guard’s sudden interest in satellite launches has heightened U.S. concerns.

Still, American officials insist the new Space Force deployment aims to secure U.S. interests, not set off an extraterrestrial arms race.

“The U.S. military would like to see a peaceful space,” Benson, the director of Space Force troops stationed in Qatar, said. “Other folks’ behavior is kind of driving us to this point.”

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Force won't

NFL likely won’t force Dan Snyder to sell Washington football team – New York Post

July 18, 2020 | 10:48am | Updated July 18, 2020 | 11:06am

Embattled Washington football owner Dan Snyder isn’t expected to lose hold of his team after 15 former employees — and two journalists — said they were sexually harassed during their time with the organization.

While the NFL will consider fining the football team and taking action against those accused, the Washington Post eported it is unlikely for the league and fellow owners to try and force Snyder into selling the club he has owned since 1999.

The 55-year-old Snyder was not accused of sexual harassment, although the report painted a picture of a toxic culture within the organization that may have perpetuated the alleged misconduct.

In a statement Friday, Snyder said the Washington Post report “strengthened my commitment to setting a new culture and standard for our team, a process that began with the hiring of Coach [Ron] Rivera” over the offseason.

NFL bylaws permit the league and team owners “the right to attempt to force the sale of a team if an owner is deemed to have engaged in conduct detrimental to the welfare of the league,” according to the Washington Post.

The league and team owners may have taken such a step three years ago against then-Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, who at the time had become the subject of allegations involving sexual harassment and the use of a racial slur against a team employee.

Dan Snyder
Dan SnyderAP

But Richardson abruptly announced he would be selling the team following a Sports Illustrated report that laid out the allegations, financial settlements nondisclosure agreements.

The NFL later fined Richardson $2.75 million after it conducted an investigation.

Snyder has not given any indication he would sell his team.

The NFL called the Washington accusations “disturbing.” Before taking any potential action, the league said it will review the findings of a team-hired attorney called on by Snyder to look into the club’s culture.

The allegations involving the Washington football team, which spanned from 2006 to 2019, were made against Larry Michael, the team’s former senior vice president of content and radio play-by-play announcer; Alex Santos, the former director of pro personnel; Richard Mann II, the former assistant director of pro personnel; Dennis Greene, the former president of business operations; and Mitch Gershman, the former chief operating officer.

Michael retired Wednesday, a day before the report was published, while Santos and Mann were fired last weekend.

The explosive Washington Post came on the heels of Snyder agreeing to change the team’s nickname many considered to be racist, a decision made only after facing financial pressure from team sponsors.

Minority ownership partners of the team, including Frederick W. Smith, Dwight Schar and Robert Rothman, also are in the process of selling their combined 40 percent stake in the team.

On the field, Washington has had just two playoff wins under Snyder.

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Force report

Task force report says 18 states in coronavirus ‘red zone’ should roll back reopening – CNN

(CNN)An unpublished document prepared for the White House coronavirus task force and obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit newsroom, recommends that 18 states in the coronavirus “red zone” for cases should roll back reopening measures amid surging cases.

The “red zone” is defined in the 359-page report as “those core-based statistical areas (CBSAs) and counties that during the last week reported both new cases above 100 per 100,000 population, and a diagnostic test positivity result above 10%.”
The report outlines measures counties in the red zone should take. It encourages residents to “wear a mask at all times outside the home and maintain physical distance.” And it recommends that public officials “close bars and gyms” and “limit social gatherings to 10 people or fewer,” which would mean rolling back reopening provisions in these places.
The report comes despite President Donald Trump’s insistence that states reopen and a push to send the nation’s children back to school, even as cases increase.
“Now we’re open, and we want to stay open and we will stay open. We’re not closing. We’ll put out the fires as they come out,” Trump said at a White House event earlier this month.
The following 18 states are in the red zone for cases: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.
The report says the following 11 states are in the red zone for test positivity: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas, Washington. The 11 states in the red zone for test positivity are also in the red zone for cases, with the exception of Washington state.
One of the states that is in the red zone for both cases and test positivity, Georgia, is currently embroiled in a political fight with its largest city. Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp filed a lawsuit over Atlanta’s Democratic Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ mandate on masks in her city Thursday. He claimed it violated his emergency orders prohibiting local leaders from adding to the state’s requirements to protect against coronavirus.
The task force report specifically includes a recommendation that Georgia “mandate statewide wearing of cloth face coverings outside the home.”
Asked about the task force report, Bottoms told CNN she had not been in touch with the task force.
“I had not heard from them, but again, the people that I’m listening to are the scientists and our health care professionals,” she said during an appearance on CNN’s “New Day.”
Devin O’Malley, spokesman for Vice President Mike Pence and the task force, didn’t dispute the document’s authenticity, and claimed the report showed “encouraging signs” amid the pandemic.
“When the vice president held a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at HHS a few weeks ago, he reported that 16 states met the criteria for rising cases and rising positivity rate. As it stands in that report, there are only 10 states that fit that criteria. This is just one data point of many encouraging signs that we are seeing across the country as we continue to respond to the coronavirus pandemic,” O’Malley said in a statement.
Dr. Deborah Birx also said earlier this month that people living in states with coronavirus surges should return to the White House’s original “phase one” recommendations on gatherings.
Citing guidelines such as wearing face masks and avoiding bars and indoor events, Birx said those steps should be resumed in order to bring cases back under control.
She said they are “asking the American people in those counties and in those states to not only use those face coverings, not going to bars, not going to indoor dining, but really not gathering in homes either. And decreasing those gatherings back down to our phase one recommendation, which was 10 or less.”
Birx touted the importance of mask-wearing and said “any kind of indoor gathering” should be avoided in places experiencing a spike in cases.
Asked by CNN’s Joe Johns about the document, counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway said: “I think we see the surge in cases and we know where the hotspots are. We’ve been very upfront about that, we’ve published many documents.”
She said she didn’t know about the document specifically but had read reports.

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Force space

Space Force more receptive to reusable rockets as it continues to review SpaceX missions – SpaceNews


A Falcon 9 rocket launches the U.S.Air Force GPS 3 SV01 mission on Dec. 23, 2018. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX on June 30 is scheduled to make its first attempt to recover the Falcon 9 booster after launching a military satellite.

WASHINGTON — SpaceX’s Falcon 9 to date has performed 86 launches, in 47 of which the rocket’s first stage landed back on earth.

While rocket landings have become the norm for SpaceX launches, none has been done yet in a national security mission.

SpaceX is about to make its first attempt to recover the booster after launching a military satellite. The company on June 30 is scheduled to launch a Global Positioning System satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

This will be SpaceX’s second GPS launch. The first was in December 2018 but that mission used an expendable rocket with no legs or grid fins because the Air Force determined the vehicle could not perform the required mission trajectory and also bring the first stage back.

The second GPS launch was originally contracted to use an expendable rocket as well, but over the past year launch managers at the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center negotiated a deal with SpaceX to allow the company to recover the booster.

SMC agreed to revise some mission requirements so SpaceX could fly back the booster and in exchange the company took off “several million dollars” off the price of the launch, said Walter Lauderdale, chief of the Falcon’s systems operations operation division at SMC’s Launch Enterprise. The original contract awarded to SpaceX in 2017 was for $96.5 million.

Speaking on June 26 during a call with reporters, Lauderdale said it took months of reviews and examinations of Falcon 9 mission data before SMC decided it could make tradeoffs to allow the booster recovery and still get the GPS satellite to the intended location in medium Earth orbit.

Extensive evaluations and some vehicle modifications made by SpaceX “reduced uncertainty in many areas,” said Lauderdale.

Since the December 2018 launch, SMC has gained more confidence that a Falcon 9 can meet the GPS mission needs and bring back the first stage too, said Lauderdale. “For this launch campaign flow we completed 362 verification tasks and evaluated over 230 risks.”

“SpaceX used the experience of our first launch campaign together to improve their processes,” he said. “This led to a 40 percent reduction in the number of questions we presented to them” compared to the first GPS mission.

“We evaluated the information from all SpaceX flights to ensure no cause for concerns for this mission,” Lauderdale said.

But he cautioned that the decision to allow SpaceX to recover the booster on this mission does not mean every national security mission will be suitable for reusable rockets.

SpaceX is providing a new booster for this launch. There are currently no plans to use a previously flown booster in any future GPS launches. SpaceX is under contract to fly three more GPS missions over the next two years.

“I can’t commit to when we’ll be ready” to let SpaceX launch a national security satellite using a previously flown booster, said Lauderdale. “Part of that journey is becoming familiar with how SpaceX is doing their work.”

SMC in May awarded SpaceX a $8.9 million “fleet surveillance” contract that allows government engineers to monitor how SpaceX recovers and refurbishes used boosters.

In the coming weeks DoD will select two launch providers for the National Security Space Launch Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement. Two of the bidders — SpaceX and Blue Origin — will be offering reusable launch systems.

“In Phase 2 we allow providers to bid previously flown systems,” said Lauderdale. “We’re open to whatever industry wants to make available to us.”

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Force LAPD's

LAPD’s use of force significantly injures protesters – Los Angeles Times

As smoke from a nearby car fire billowed up, the police batons came raining down. Deon Jones felt one lash across his back and shoulder as he ran. Glancing back, he saw a Los Angeles police officer aim a tactical gun right at his face.

The pain was sudden and searing. Ringing filled his ears. At the hospital, a doctor told the 28-year-old protester that he would have been blinded had the police projectile struck an inch to the right — and dead had it hit an inch higher, at his temple. Instead, he had two cracked bones in his face, a head injury and stitches across his cheek.

“We are protesting police brutality,” Jones said, “and then being brutalized by police while we’re protesting.”

A Times review of dozens of instances of police force during protests over the killing in police custody of George Floyd found that demonstrators suffered a range of injuries at the hands of the LAPD, from minor bruising from baton strikes and falls as police skirmish lines advanced, to serious injuries to their genitals and heads from foam and sponge bullets and beanbags being launched into crowds, sometimes from close range. To date, there has been no formal assessment of how many protesters were hurt.

Deon Jones felt one lash across his back and shoulder as he ran.

Deon Jones felt one lash across his back and shoulder as he ran. Glancing back, he saw a Los Angeles police officer aim a tactical gun right at his face.


Many of the protesters’ wounds are from incidents in which police appeared to have violated their own policies for how weapons like batons and “less lethal” munitions may be used, after they had declared large gatherings unlawful and subject to dispersal, the review found. Others, including some of the most serious injuries to men’s genitals, appeared to be the result of sanctioned uses — such as officers aiming projectiles directly at a man’s belt line.

Since the Rodney King beating nearly three decades ago, the LAPD has increasingly placed limits on how police use force, from wielding batons and flashlights to firing weapons and using certain choke holds.

Weapons such as beanbags and foam projectiles were ushered in to reduce police shootings. But there are now calls from Black Lives Matter activists and others to restrict their use after the police response to protests, and additional questions about the use of batons.

Ed Obayashi, a police force expert, said the protest videos underscored how the use of batons can quickly spin out of control and result in serious injury.

“After one blow strikes, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy and you get casualties,” he said.

Witnesses to the events say the police were at times responding to water bottles and other debris being thrown at them and fires and other vandalism occurring around them. But other times, the police appeared to be lashing out at peaceful protesters simply for being on the street.

“We were standing there, and they were really not wanting us there anymore,” said Matt McGorry, an actor who was hit with batons and shot in the stomach with a projectile, and whose videos from the front lines are among the most viewed online. “They just came after people, even when people had their hands raised. They were swinging at people’s knees like they were trying to hit a home run.”

Police and city leaders, including Mayor Eric Garcetti and LAPD Chief Michel Moore, said the actions of police officers who clashed with protesters in recent weeks are under review. Josh Rubenstein, an LAPD spokesman, said the department has committed 40 internal affairs investigators to the sole task of reviewing such interactions and assessing whether policy violations or more serious misconduct occurred.

More than 50 investigations have been launched into complaints about police behavior during the protests, including 28 alleging excessive force. Seven police department employees have been taken out of the field pending the results, the department said Wednesday. Moore has said he witnessed officers using batons in ways he did not approve, though it’s not clear whether they are among those assigned to desk duties.

The recognition of failures is an evolution in tone from the early days of protest, when Garcetti and Moore repeatedly praised the department’s officers for their “restraint.” And they still maintain the police force performed admirably overall.

Garcetti and Moore have repeatedly lamented the fact that more than two dozen police officers were injured, including one with a skull fracture, but have attempted no public accounting of protester injuries at the hands of police.

According to The Times’ reporting, there were a significant number, including many from a violent police confrontation with a large gathering of protesters near the Grove in the city’s Fairfax District on May 30.

Police say a peaceful protest at Pan Pacific Park spiraled out of control as people in the crowd, whether protesters or infiltrators keen on inciting chaos, started to damage stores, light cars on fire and endanger other citizens and officers. Protesters say police stirred up trouble by amassing in riot gear and then hemming people into confined areas with no escape.

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, about two miles away, treated several patients with injuries from tactical bullets, said Dr. Sam Torbati, medical director of the hospital’s emergency room. Most patients had injuries such as bruising and lacerations and were discharged after receiving treatment, he said.

Hospital officials would not provide total figures for such injuries.

Asst. Chief Robert Arcos, who oversees LAPD operations, said officers were deploying sponge and foam bullets at specific targets, including those throwing projectiles at police, and not simply to disperse or push back crowds. But he acknowledged many complaints of excessive force are being looked into.

Department policy for such weapons requires they be used only on individuals who present a clear and immediate threat and are specifically targeted, and from at least five feet away. It mandates officers aim at individuals’ navel or belt line first, and then their arms and legs if initial shots are ineffective. Officers are not supposed to aim at people’s heads or necks. They are not to use the weapons in response to verbal threats or “mere noncompliance.” They are not to fire the weapons at people running away.

Protesters said they were fired upon from point-blank range, that the weapons were fired indiscriminately into crowds and at people running away, and that the weapons were aimed at people’s heads and faces.

Arcos said batons were generally used to push people out of the area after dispersal orders, or to strike people in instances where officers were confronted with “aggressive or violent behavior.”

“I know that there are video images that do not seem to support that, but there is more context that we have to look at — for example, the body-worn video from those officers, which we are doing,” he said.

Protesters said the batons were used to beat protesters who were passively resisting dispersal orders, and at times when people were trying to disperse but weren’t doing so as quickly as officers wanted them to.

During the same protest in Fairfax where Jones was shot in the face, Eric Schuh was injured too. The projectile that hit him snapped off one of his teeth, cracked several more and busted his lip open.

Schuh, 28, said he was trying to help someone who had fallen in the crowd when he heard a bullet whiz by his ear. He said he threw his hands up and tried to duck behind a car, but it was too late. He saw the police officer aim his gun directly at him, he said.

“The next second I was looking down and blood was just coming out of my mouth like a faucet, and I remember being in intense, intense pain,” said Schuh, who lives in Long Beach.

Schuh’s friend, Danyel Norman, 32, was hit in the throat seconds before Schuh, she said. Terrified, they rushed away and into an alley that resembled a triage ward, full of others with similar injuries, Norman said.

They were “all on the ground treating each other,” she said, when police began firing into the alley.

Suzee Dunn, 30, a writer and producer, said she witnessed police corral crowds into tight spaces, only to start shooting projectiles wildly while jabbing people in the gut and striking them in the legs with batons. She was shot in the leg.

“It was just mass chaos and insanity and people hurt everywhere,” she said.

Peter Murphy, 32, a manager at a local deli, said police showed zero restraint with their batons.

“They were shoving people with their batons, using their batons to hit people in their ribs, and then they would cock back their batons and full-force hit people,” he said.

He said he witnessed police firing projectiles at random into large crowds of fleeing protesters.

“The crowd started to scatter, people started to move and get out of the way, and rubber bullets kept being shot. Even as people were retreating they kept getting hit,” he said. “It seemed like the intention was to hurt people rather than just disperse them.”

Days later, Ben Montemayor, a 28-year-old filmmaker, was hit by a police projectile in Hollywood.

An LAPD officer had grabbed a sign reading “Defund the Police” away from Montemayor and a friend, then shoved the friend to the ground, Montemayor said. When he went to help his friend up, he felt intense pain, he said, and realized he’d been shot in the groin.

One of his testicles swelled to twice its usual size, and the other was also injured. At a nearby hospital, he was rushed into emergency surgery to save his testicles and his future ability to have children, he said.

Some medical experts have for years argued police give the wrong impression of such weapons when they refer to them as “less than lethal” or suggest they are a soft approach to enforcement. Baton strikes can cause lasting injuries, and projectiles can be deadly.

A 2017 analysis of 1,984 people injured by rubber or plastic bullets found that 3% were killed and 15% permanently injured by the impact, left with vision loss, head injuries or limb amputations.

“If you fired at a ton of people in the crowd, someone is going to get hit in the eye or in the face or in the scrotum or something like that and have permanent disabilities,” said Dr. Rohini Haar, the study’s lead author and an emergency room physician.

Los Angeles Times reporters Joel Rubin and Cindy Chang contributed to this report.

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Force space

Space Force to launch X-37B space plane on secret mission Saturday. Here’s how to watch live. –

The Space Force will launch a robotic X-37B space plane on a new secret mission for the U.S. military early Saturday (May 16) and you can watch it live online. 

Weather permitting, the X-37B space plane will lift off atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to begin its hush-hush mission in Earth orbit. Liftoff is set for 8:24 a.m. EDT (1224 GMT)

You can watch the X-37B launch live here and on’s homepage beginning at about 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT). 

You can also watch the launch here directly from the United Launch Alliance, which built the Atlas V rocket for this mission. ULA will begin posting live updates on launch preparations at 1 a.m. EDT (0500 GMT) before the actual launch. Weather is a key concern, with Air Force officials forecasting just a 40% chance of good conditions for launch. 

Related: The X-37B space plane: 6 surprising facts

For those who serve

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying an X-37B space plane stands atop Space Launch Complex 41 of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on May 14, 2src2src during launch preparations for the USSF-7 mission.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying an X-37B space plane stands atop Space Launch Complex 41 of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on May 14, 2020 during launch preparations for the USSF-7 mission. (Image credit: United Launch Alliance)

Space Force officials said Saturday’s launch, called USSF-7, is dedicated to the many first responders and medical personnel who work daily to combat the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“Our invincible American spirit drives us to motivate, collaborate, and innovate together to overcome adversity,” Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett said in a statement. “In dedicating this mission to the nation’s healthcare workers, first responders, and essential personnel, the Department celebrates those who are keeping America Strong.”

“America Strong” is the tagline for this mission, with Space Force and ULA emblazoning it on the side of the Atlas V rocket along with the message: “In memory of COVID-19 victims and tribute to all first responders and front-line workers.” 

ULA, in partnership with the @SpaceForceDoD and @usairforce, is dedicating the #USSF7 launch to all those affected by #COVID19. A written dedication is affixed to the #AtlasV rocket’s payload fairing #AmericaStrong 15, 2020

COVID-19 is the disease caused by the new coronavirus, which has infected 4.5 million people around the world, 1.4 million of them in the United States. At least 87,427 have died from the disease in the U.S as of today. 

“The U.S. Space Force and United Launch Alliance salute each American serving on the frontlines in our fight against COVID-19,” Space Force Chief Gen John Raymond of the U.S. Space Command said in the same statement. “We are proud to dedicate the upcoming launch of USSF-7 to showcase American resolve and national unity during these challenging times.”

Related: US Air Force’s secretive X-37B space plane (infographic)

X-37B’s return to space

The upcoming launch will mark the sixth flight of an X-37B space plane (also known as an Orbital Test Vehicle), giving it the designation OTV-6. 

The U.S. Air Force and Space Force have two reusable X-37B space planes, both built by Boeing, for classified missions in low-Earth orbit that can last years. The robotic spacecraft resemble miniature versions of NASA’s space shuttles and are powered by a solar array. The first X-37B mission launched in April 2010.

A U.S. Air Force X-37B space plane, encapsulated ahead of a planned May 16, 2src2src, launch. That liftoff will kick off the sixth mission for the X-37B program.

A U.S. Air Force X-37B space plane, encapsulated ahead of a planned May 16, 2020, launch. That liftoff will kick off the sixth mission for the X-37B program. (Image credit: U.S. Air Force)

Some details are available about the upcoming OTV_6 mission. The flight will carry two NASA experiments to study space radiation and the effects of space exposure on materials and seeds for food, Space Force officials have said. 

The spacecraft will also deploy the small FalconSat-8 satellite built by the U.S. Air Force Academy and carry a novel power-beaming experiment built by the Naval Research Laboratory to demonstrate technology to “transform solar power into radio frequency microwave energy which could then be transmitted to the ground,” according to a mission description.

Editor’s note: Visit Saturday, May 16, for live coverage of the X-37B OTV-6 launch, beginning at 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT).

Email Tariq Malik at or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Instagram

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