America’s newest Global Positioning System satellite is now in space following its successful launch Friday evening onboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket from Cape Canaveral A.F.S.
Following a one-day delay due to storms associated with a passing cold front, blastoff of the 205 foot tall Delta IV Medium+ rocket, featuring twin solid rocket boosters, occurred on time at 8:03 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 37-B.
This mission was launched aboard a Delta IV Medium-plus 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 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.
Racing through the red-tinged sunset sky, the rocket quickly gained altitude under the thrust of its solid boosters and RS-68 main engine powered by high-energy liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. Two and a half minutes after launch, the two solid rocket boosters burned out and were jettisoned to fall into the Atlantic Ocean.
The second stage Centaur’s single RL10B-2 engine took over four minutes into the mission for an 11-minute first engine burn to place Global Positioning System satellite GPS IIF-6 into an initial parking orbit.
After a three-hour coast phase, the upper stage restarted to place the spacecraft into an orbit 11,000 miles high with an inclination of 55 degrees relative to the equator.
“ULA is honored 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. “Congratulations to the entire team on tonight’s successful launch of the GPS IIF-6 satellite and the continued one-launch-at-a-time focus.”
GPS IIF-6 is the sixth in a series of next generation GPS satellites and will join a 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.
Previous GPS IIF satellite launches:
GPS satellites serve and protect our warfighters by providing navigational assistance for U.S. operations on land, at sea, and in the air.
“The GPS constellation is reliably serving global users with the most accurate and robust signals ever, and the navigation, timing accuracy and availability will improve as the GPS modernization efforts continue,” said Col. Bill Cooley, director of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s Global Positioning Systems Directorate.. “GPS is the most widely used and accepted system of its kind in the world today, and we stand ready to launch GPS IIF-6,” he said.
Civilian users around the world also use and depend on GPS for highly accurate time, location, and velocity information. From the navigation systems in our vehicles to the timing of most electronic financial transactions, GPS has permeated into nearly every aspect of our lives.
“The 45th Space Wing thanks United Launch Alliance, the Space and Missile Systems Center, GPS Directorate, Boeing and all our other mission partners who made this launch successful,” said Col. Robert Pavelko, 45th Space Wing vice commander, who also served as Launch Decision Authority.
“It’s another fantastic performance by a fantastic launch team,” he said.
Lt. Col. Paul Konyha, 45th Launch Support Squadron commander, was also proud of the entire team’s ability to successfully launch this important mission.
“Our team has launched every modern GPS satellite from here at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. We take great pride in our ability to deliver these capabilities to our citizens and warfighters,” he said. “I am always impressed by the amount of dedication and rigor that everyone puts into each launch.”
GPS IIF-6 was ULA’s fifth launch of 2014 and 82nd overall. It also marked the 26th flight of the Delta IV since its first launch Nov 20, 2002. Of those 26 launches, 21 have lifted off from Cape Canaveral’s Complex 37.
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