Air Force launches new military communications satellite.

An unmanned rocket lit up the Florida night sky Thursday,…

An unmanned rocket lit up the Florida night sky Thursday, Jan. 19, as it launched a vital new communications satellite into orbit for the U.S. military — the first major American space launch of the year.

The Delta 4 rocket roared spaceward from a Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch pad carrying the Wideband Global SATCOM 4 satellite, the latest addition to the military’s highest capacity communications system in history. Liftoff occurred on time at 7:38 p.m. EST (0038 Jan. 20 GMT).

Built by Boeing, the $464 million WGS-4 satellite is the fourth in a growing constellation of high-capacity satellites that provide tactical communications to and between ground forces, as well as relay data and imagery from surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. The new satellites can provide more than 10 times the communications capacity of its predecessor system, Boeing officials said.

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