The newly formed U.S. Space Force is not staying on the sidelines for the fight against the novel coronavirus.
The months-old service is working to protect the missions of the Navy's hospital ships Mercy and Comfort, now operating on the East and West coasts in support of the COVID-19 pandemic response, officials said.
Officials from the 50th Space Wing said in a release that the 4th Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, is operating the Advanced Extremely High Frequency, or AEHF, satellite communications system and the Wideband Global SATCOM satellite communications system for the ships, which give personnel onboard 24-hour coverage to access data transmitted and processed through medical machines faster. The result is increased bandwidth and jam-resistant communications for medical staff and crew.
For example, the use of the WGS satellite -- which provides broadband communications for the U.S. military and allies -- has "doubled data rate" for the professionals accessing medical and mobile devices on the Mercy, docked in Los Angeles, according to a Space Force graphic. The Comfort is docked in New York City.
Earlier this month, the Regional Satellite Communications Support Center-Pacific, part of the U.S. Army Satellite Operations Brigade, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, first began its operations of the WGS satellite for the Mercy.
Using the WGS has reduced "network latency and increased upload and download speeds," said Robert Driskell, wideband cell chief for RSSC-PAC, in a recent Army release. The unit manages the satellite system at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.
AEHF, meanwhile, typically gives both tactical and strategic support to troops and allies around the world, to include protected "tactical warning attack, emergency action message dissemination, missile defense and warning, near real-time targeting, communications range extension, and special operations support," according to the Air Force.
The Space Force on March 26 launched AEHF-6 onboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, the sixth and final satellite of the constellation, according to Space News.
"Despite everything going on right now, it's important to not lose sight of our mission as space warfighters," Airman 1st Class Sophia Carbajal, 4th SOPS extremely high frequency satellite systems operator, said in a news release. "The launch of AEHF-6 not only represents the future of space operations, but it represents how dedicated this nation is to maintaining space superiority."
The upgraded satellite "will help us continue to provide secure, survivable military satellite communications at the frontlines of space systems operations," Carbajal added.
-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.