Saturday, February 6, 2016

ULA Successfully Launches GPS IIF-12 Satellite for U.S. Air Force

An Atlas V rocket carrying the GPS IIF-12 mission lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41. Credit: ULA

United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully launched its first mission of the year with an Atlas V rocket carrying the Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF-12 satellite for the U.S. Air Force. The rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Feb. 5 at 8:38 a.m. EST. GPS IIF-12 is the final satellite in the IIF-block of satellites, which are the next-generation GPS satellites that incorporate numerous improvements to provide greater accuracy, increased signals and enhanced performance for users. This mission was ULA’s 104th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

“Congratulations to the ULA, Boeing and Air Force teams on the successful launch of GPS IIF-12. We began launching the IIF satellites in May 2010 and have appreciated the outstanding teamwork of everyone involved as we have worked together to deliver all 12 IIF satellites. This system provides incredible capabilities to our women and men in uniform while enabling so many technologies that impact all of our daily lives. We are proud to be GPS’s ride to space,” said Laura Maginnis, ULA vice president, Custom Services. 

“This GPS IIF milestone builds on our 40-plus years of GPS experience and a strong government-Boeing partnership,” said Dan Hart, vice president, Boeing Government Satellite Systems. “We continue investing in GPS innovation while driving down costs, keeping GPS prepared to meet current and future demands.”

The mission was launched aboard an Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) 401 configuration vehicle, which includes a 4-meter diameter payload fairing. The Atlas booster for this mission was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine, and the Centaur upper stage was powered by the Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C-1 engine. 



"Every launch is exciting but today's mission caps nearly six years of Aerojet Rocketdyne propulsion, successfully placing all 12 of these next-generation satellites into orbit," said Ron Felix, vice president and general manager of the Space Systems at Aerojet Rocketdyne. "Our objective is always 100 percent mission success, and it's an honor to know we have fulfilled that promise each and every time - not just with the first GPS Block IIF satellite placed into orbit in May 2010, but with each GPS spacecraft placed into orbit since the inception of the program in the late 1970s."

Friday’s flight utilizes a newly designed suite of avionics, flight software and ground systems. This upgraded command and control system was designed to reduce cost and improve reliability.

"This is a significant milestone for GPS, the 50th GPS satellite to be delivered on-orbit," said Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, Space and Missile Systems Center commander and Air Force Program Officer for Space.  "The GPS IIF satellite performance has been exceptional and is expected to be operational for years to come."

This mission proves the Air Force's dedication to deliver pre-eminent space-based positioning, navigation and timing service to users around the globe. GPS is the Department of Defense's largest satellite constellation with 31-operational satellites on orbit. GPS IIF is critical to U.S. national security and to sustainment of the GPS constellation for civil, commercial and military users. Originally designed for the military user, GPS has become a global utility depended upon by more than two billion users worldwide. Even 45th SW personnel rely on GPS satellites currently on orbit to track most missions they launch from the Eastern Range at CCAFS.

ULA's next launch is the Delta IV NROL-45 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office, scheduled for Feb. 10 from Space Launch Complex-6 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. 

The EELV program was established by the U.S. 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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