Thursday, March 26, 2015

GPS IIF Satellite Successfully Launched into Orbit, Sends First Signals

The successful launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket from Launch Complex 37, March 25, 2015, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., carrying the Air Force's ninth Block IIF-09 navigation satellite for the Global Positioning System at 2:36 p.m. EDT. Credit: ULA

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket successfully launched the ninth Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF satellite for the U.S. Air Force at 2:36 p.m. EDT Wednesday from Space Launch Complex-37 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The ninth GPS IIF, built by Boeing, reached orbit about 3 hours, 20 minutes after the launch and sent signals confirming its health. “Congratulations to the Air Force and all of our mission partners on today’s successful launch of GPS IIF-9! The ULA team is privileged to work with this world-class U.S. government and contractor mission team, and we are proud to contribute to the GPS capabilities that were delivered to orbit today,” said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Atlas and Delta Programs.“ This entire team is focused on 100 percent mission success, one launch at a time, and also providing on-time launches to meet our customer’s mission needs.”

This mission was launched aboard a Delta IV Medium-plus (4,2) configuration Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) using a single ULA common booster core powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68 main engine, along with two Orbital ATK GEM-60 solid rocket motors. The upper stage was powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10B-2 engine with the satellite encapsulated in a four-meter-diameter composite payload fairing. 

“Orbital ATK’s contributions to the Delta IV GPS IIF-9 mission are prime examples of the affordable, innovative and reliable products we offer,” said Ron Grabe, President of Orbital ATK’s Flight Systems Group. “These products are crucial to our nation and millions of GPS users around the world.”



GPS IIF-9 is the ninth in a series of next generation GPS satellites and will join the GPS worldwide timing and navigation system utilizing 24 satellites in six different planes, with a minimum of four satellites per plane positioned in orbit approximately 11,000 miles above the Earth’s surface. The GPS IIF series provides improved accuracy and enhanced performance for GPS users. 

"First, let me offer my heartiest congratulations to ULA, Boeing, Space and Missile Systems Center, the Launch Systems Directorate, the Global Positioning Systems Directorate, and all the mission partners who made this happen," said Brig. Gen. Nina Armagno, 45th Air Force's Space Wing commander, who also served as the Launch Decision Authority.

"What a treat -- and an honor -- it is to know that we have played such a significant part in something that we will celebrate two decades of helping people all around the world," Armagno said. "Every GPS satellite since the program's inception has been launched right here from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station safely and reliably by members of the 45th Space Wing."

"And that's because we continue to take a 'one launch at a time' mentality and focus on our number one priority - 100 percent Mission Success. I am so very proud to be part of Team Patrick-Cape."

The GPS IIF-9, designated as SVN-71, will undergo on-orbit testing and checkout before beginning full operation.

Boeing, ULA and the Air Force successfully launched four GPS IIFs last year, the highest operations tempo in over 20 years, and today’s mission marks the first of three launches planned in 2015,” said Dan Hart, vice president, Boeing Government Space Systems. “As they enter service, the IIFs are advancing and modernizing the GPS constellation by improving accuracy, signal strength and anti-jamming capability. We are also introducing the L-5 civilian ‘safety-of-life’ signal intended mainly for aviation and transportation.”

The successful launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket from Launch Complex 37, March 25, 2015, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., carrying the Air Force's ninth Block IIF-09 navigation satellite for the Global Positioning System at 2:36 p.m. EDT. Credit: ULA
The successful launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket from Launch Complex 37, March 25, 2015, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., carrying the Air Force's ninth Block IIF-09 navigation satellite for the Global Positioning System at 2:36 p.m. EDT. Credit: ULA

Boeing has served as a prime contractor on GPS since the program’s inception, contributing multiple generations of GPS satellites and accruing more than 525 years of on-orbit operation.

This is ULA’s fourth launch in 2015 and the 95th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

ULA will deliver two more GPS IIF satellites into orbit this year, and then another in early 2016 to complete the IIF series. These satellites will be delivered into medium-Earth orbits and will circle the globe every 12 hours, providing critical Navstar positioning, velocity, and timing assets fully functional until the next-generation GPS Block IIIA comes online in 2016. In addition to their civilian usage, the Block IIF satellites boast enhanced accuracy, reprogrammable processors, interference-free signals for commercial aviation, search and rescue capability, and a new Military code that is better resistant to electronic jamming.

ULA's next launch is the Atlas V AFSPC-5 mission for the United States Air Force, scheduled for May 6 from Space Launch Complex-41 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

The EELV program was established by the United States Air Force to provide assured access to space for Department of Defense and other government payloads. The commercially developed EELV program supports the full range of government mission requirements, while delivering on schedule and providing significant cost savings over the heritage launch systems.

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