The U.S. Space Force launched Hispasat‘s Amazonas Nexus satellite aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Feb. 6 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla.

The Pathfinder 2 mission is the third Pathfinder mission to explore the military use of commercial technologies to allow the provision of affordable, resilient, wideband satellite communications, according to Space Force’s Space Systems Command (SSC).

“Pathfinder 2 will improve the diversity, flexibility and resiliency of the U.S. Space Force’s satellite communication architecture and provide increased capability to the warfighter,” SSC said. “This mission utilizes existing commercial technologies to demonstrate innovative, affordable and resilient wideband alternative satellite communications. Artel, LLC and its sub-contractors, Hispasat, Hunter Communications and Thales Alenia Space, were awarded a contract to design, test, launch, and operate the satellite and transponder, as well as provide commercial satellite communications Ku-band bandwidth for 15 years.”

Engineers at Artel, LLC and the Space Force’s Space Operations Command at Peterson Space Force Base, Colo., are to perform on-orbit checkout on the Space Force’s transponder and test it “before operationally accepting the [Pathfinder 2] mission for use by warfighters,” SSC said.

SSC said that the first two Pathfinders–1 and 3–were delegated to the U.S. Army.

“Without the global COVID delays experienced across the industry, it is expected the [Hispasat] satellite would have launched earlier,” SSC said on Feb. 7.

On Jan. 3, Space Force launched an Electro-Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) Weather Systems (EWS) technical demonstration cube satellite by Colorado’s Orion Space Solutions aboard the SpaceX Transporter-6 mission from Cape Canaveral (Defense Daily, Jan. 3).

EWS is to replace four Lockheed Martin [LMT] Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellites to provide military forces with global terrestrial cloud forecasts and theater weather imagery data. DMSP launches began in 1962, and the satellites are expected to retire by 2025 when EWS is to come online.

The Jan. 3 launch of the Orion Space Solutions’ EWS cube satellite fulfills the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act “mandate to launch a weather EO/IR pathfinder prototype by FY23.”