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Behind the satellite crate, there is a long flatbed truck, covered in metal rollers, to provide ground transportation. A computer displays information from sensors inside the satellite container that track temperature, humidity and vibration. The interior is filled with nitrogen pumped from dozens of tanks to create a neutral atmosphere.

Space travel, it turns out, needs more than rockets: It must mobilize the biggest planes and specially designed trucks, certified pilots and drivers to operate them, meteorologists to watch out for rainstorms, technicians to watch out for turbulence, and field-grade military officers to oversee the whole operation. The next time you watch an rocket launch, remember that few minutes of fiery acceleration is just the last leg in a very long journey. Muller entered the service as a military physicist—a real job, he assures me—and spent the beginning of his career working on nuclear detection and deterrence.

For the last several years, he has worked at the Space and Missile Systems Center developing this satellite system and procuring this satellite. Nuclear weapons catalyzed the new global economy in many ways, perhaps nowhere more so than in aerospace. Bigger, faster planes were needed to deliver nuclear weapons.

Rockets, in fact, might be a better delivery method, and early ballistic missile research quickly became the foundation of the space program. The technology of Earth-imaging developed to spy on nuclear programs from above, with spy satellites eventually used to verify treaties limiting atomic weapons. Although Jimmy Carter was not interested in space, the shuttle program survived his presidency because it could put weapons-spotting satellites into orbit. Presidents and their nuclear weapons must always be connected, according to US military doctrine.

Three satellites are already in orbit, 22, miles above the Earth. The guts of the satellite were designed and built by Lockheed Martin, the enormous US defense contractor, while its communications instruments were built by Northrop Grumman, the only slightly less enormous US defense contractor. Lockheed also built the C-5 the satellite flew on. It could work nowhere else: Its structures are designed for microgravity—if the solar wings extended to their full foot span on Earth, they would collapse under their own weight.

AEHF spacecraft have many unique features. When special forces in the field rely on them to stay in touch, the satellites automatically hop from frequency to frequency to dodge enemy attempts to jam it.

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It promises to deliver data to users at a speed of 8 mbps, faster than the connection to my home wifi network right now. Most importantly, and expensively, it can survive a nuclear strike. Atomic explosions release bursts of electrical energy that can fry computers, even in orbit.

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This satellite is hardened to pass through such energy blasts unscathed. More than that, if the satellite loses touch with its control system on the ground, it can operate autonomously, continuing to provide service to its users. Au, proud of his work, scoffed a bit at the attention received by autonomous drone and car companies. His vehicle is operating at the real technological frontier. It is likely the satellite can do even more impressive things.

The images of the spacecraft shared in this article are tightly controlled by the US Air Force and Lockheed Martin, down to the color of the background lighting. These images showing a satellite going into and out of its container are actually of a different Lockheed satellite one that spots enemy missiles with infrared surveillance because it will take a month for various bureaucrats to approve publication of similar pictures of Space Vehicle Four.

Dodging thunder storms, the plane makes its way across the country at nearly miles per hour.


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If necessary, the C-5 can make such trips without stopping or re-fueling. Ahead of this mission, he practiced landing extra-heavy planes to make sure he had the right feel for it. Today, he coming down a nearly three mile-long runway at Kennedy Space Center, originally designed for shuttles winging their way back from orbit.

For a passenger facing backwards, the landing too, a weird sensation, is smooth as silk. We coast gently down the runway to avoid any jarring from the brakes.

C-5 Galaxy In Action (Soft Cover) (Book)

We touch down at about pm eastern time, with twilight fast approaching. Large floodlights are set up in a circle around the aircraft to prepare for the overnight unloading process. Bugs swarm them and us. Now I get to see the Lockheed team and their Air Force counterparts at work. Perhaps 40 people are in action around the plane, many flown here in advance to meet us at landing. In contrast to the trim and youthful airmen in flight suits or fatigues, the Lockheed team tends toward the middle-aged and thick in the waist, wearing jeans, T-shirts, baseball caps and nylon-surfaced modern work boots with metal toes.

They are the kind of people who carry multi-tools, who measure twice, and who operate from thick binders detailing the procedures for the work they are about to do. Many are military veterans. Before each stage of the unloading process, they huddle to talk through every step. The concept is simple: First the back of the plane opens, and the specially designed flatbed truck drives out. The forklift takes all the crates and the mobile air-conditioner off the truck, which drives around to the front of the plane.

The back of the plane closes, and the front opens.

Watch This Crazy Video Of An C-17 Globemaster Vs C-5 Galaxy II screaming Short Takeoff & Landing

The plane knees down so that the cargo bay floor lines up with the flatbed. The satellite then slides out like an gigantic Pez candy from a dispenser. Subscribe to the newsletter. Chris Rollins. Lockheed Martin has just delivered the most recent upgrade of the military's cargo backbone, the C-5M Super Galaxy, to the U.

The aircraft contains a host of upgrades and modernizations intended to help its keep its status as the dominant cargo plane of the U. First deployed in , the C-5 has seen action in all military conflicts since the Vietnam War. Its ability to carry all types of cargo certified for air transport and relatively short takeoff and landing distances have made it invaluable to military officers in the field.

The C-5 also has the ability to be unloaded or loaded from both ends, allowing cargo to be unloaded from the front while being loaded from the back, significantly reducing the time between landing and takeoff and can carry troops as well as cargo - so that troops can arrive simultaneously with equipment.

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How the Air Force's biggest plane got a crude but accurate unofficial nickname

The new upgrades are intended to help modernize the aircraft as well as improve performance in a variety of areas. One major change is the engine - the old General Electric TF engines, which produce 43, pounds of thrust each, have been replaced by the General Electric CFC2 engines, which add an additional 10, pounds of thrust each. Additional upgrades include a new avionics system and cockpit. The new cockpit is all glass and includes flat screen displays as well as a new all-weather autopilot system and enhanced navigation equipment designed to reduce crew workload. The combined U. Air Force and Lockheed Martin team can take great pride in its success, which is keeping this national strategic airlift asset viable for decades to come.

Rollout of the C-5M Super Galaxy completes the second phase in a modernization procedure that aims to upgrade 52 existing C-5M's. The Avionics Modernization Program first replaced aging electronic systems on 46 aircraft, which have already logged a combined 45, hours.

What It's Like To Fly America's Biggest Jet, The Gargantuan C-5 Galaxy

The second phase, which completes the update, includes re-engining and reliability enhancements. November 9 marks the first delivery of three fully-modified airplanes that will be dispatched to the Air Force. Lockheed Martin is headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, but employs about , people worldwide.


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