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USSF, ULA to honor COVID-19 responders with 'America Strong' launch dedication

Launch

United States Space Force-7 mission, stacked Atlas 5 (Courtesy of United Launch Alliance)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The U.S. Space Force and United Launch Alliance will honor all front-line workers and COVID-19 first responders while paying tribute to those affected by the pandemic during a launch mission scheduled for May 16 at 8:24 a.m. EST. United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket carrying the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle serves as a collaborative "America Strong" salute from the USSF and ULA.
 
“Our invincible American spirit drives us to motivate, collaborate, and innovate together to overcome adversity,” said Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett. “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 campaign that began April 23 with a series of joint and individual team flights of the USAF Thunderbirds and U.S. Navy Blue Angels occurring several times a week over cities across the nation - and continues with the USSF-7 launch.
 
“The U.S. Space Force and United Launch Alliance salute each American serving on the frontlines in our fight against COVID-19,” said Gen John Raymond, Chief of Space Operations, United States Space Force, and Commander, United States Space Command. “We are proud to dedicate the upcoming launch of USSF-7 to showcase American resolve and national unity during these challenging times.”
 
In order to accomplish this mission, personnel continue to implement various precautionary measures to maintain personnel and community safety. In addition, both USSF and ULA are following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention social distancing guidelines.
 
“We are honored to collaborate with the U.S. Space Force and dedicate the USSF-7 mission to front-line responders and those affected by this global pandemic,” said Tory Bruno, president and CEO, United Launch Alliance. “This launch provides us with a unique opportunity to honor those affected by COVID-19, and pay tribute to the hard working first responders who are selflessly supporting the nation during this difficult time.”
 
This collective salute from the USSF, U.S. Air Force and ULA also includes a message of condolence, appreciation and hope on the rocket's payload fairing.
 
This National Security Space launch will be the second by ULA for the USSF since it was established in December 2019. The first NSSL launch for the USSF was of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency-6 satellite on an Atlas V that took place March 26, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The USSF and ULA continue to refine processes and work together to safely continue operations in spite of COVID-19.  
 
Everyone can view the launch from the safety of their home via live-stream. Residents in Florida near Cape Canaveral should follow state guidelines for traveling to beaches, and refrain from gathering in large groups. 

A satellite built by U.S. Air Force Academy cadets will launch into space aboard the Orbital Test Vehicle. This is the first time a satellite built and designed by cadets will catch a ride into space aboard the X-37B. 

Lt. Col. Dan Showalter, assistant astronautics professor at the Academy, said “as novel as this mode of transportation might be, the purpose for cadets in the school’s space program is the same as it was when the school’s space program began in the 80s.”

“FalconSAT-8 is an educational platform for cadets.  We perform technology demonstrations for the Air Force,” he said.

More information on the USSF-7 launch can be found at https://www.ulalaunch.com/missions/atlas-v-ussf-7