The newest member of the the Air Force’s worldwide Global Position System satellite constellation successfully blasted off on July 16 from Cape Canaveral. A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifted off at 11:36 am EDT from Space Launch Complex 41 carrying the GPS IIF-10 on the sixth mission for ULA this year.
This 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 a single Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10-C engine.
“Congratulations to the U.S Air Force and the entire mission team on today’s successful launch of the 10th GPS IIF satellite! In just a few days, on July 17, the Global Positioning System will celebrate the 20th anniversary of GPS achieving fully operational status,” said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Atlas and Delta Programs. “LA is very proud to play a role in delivering these satellites to orbit, with Atlas and Delta rockets having launched all 58 operational GPS satellites.”
GPS IIF-10 marks the 55th Atlas V launch since the vehicle’s inaugural launch in 2002, and the 27th flight of the 401 configuration. The mission was the 97th successful launch for United Launch Alliance since the company was formed in 2006.
GPS IIF-10 is one of the next-generation GPS satellites, incorporating various improvements to provide greater accuracy, increased signals, and enhanced performance for users. GPS IIF-10 is the 10th in a series of next-generation GPS satellites.
The GPS satellite constellation utilizes 24 satellites orbiting approximately 11,000 miles above Earth in six different planes. At least four spacecraft orbit in each plane.
GPS satellites serve and protect our warfighters by providing navigational assistance for U.S. military operations on land, at sea, and in the air. Civilian users around the world also use and depend on GPS for highly accurate time, location, and velocity information.
The Boeing-built GPS IIF satellites provide improved signals to support both the warfighter and the growing civilian needs of our global economy. The GPS IIF satellites will provide improved accuracy through advanced atomic clocks, a longer design life than previous GPS satellites, and a new operational third civil signal (L5) that benefits commercial aviation and safety-of-life applications.
Operated by U.S. Air Force Space Command, the GPS constellation provides worldwide positioning and navigation support seven days a week, 24-hours a day. 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the GPS System achieving Full Operational Capability.
Gen. John Hyten, commander, Air Force Space Command, who attended the launch with his wife, Laura, and Chief Master Sgt. Douglas McIntyre, AFSPC Command Chief, talked about the Airmen who make GPS possible.
“If you go to Schriever Air Force Base today and you walk into the 2nd Space Operations Squadron, in a little room you’ll find seven Airmen,” he said in a recent speech.
“(Their) average age will be about 23 years old. Those Airmen are providing everything that is GPS for the entire world. Everything,” he said.
“So if you’re on a bass boat in the middle of Alabama; if you’re on a golf course in the middle of Scotland; wherever you happen to be using GPS, those seven Airmen, average age 23, are providing those capabilities. That’s pretty amazing,” said Hyten.
Brig. Gen. Nina Armagno, 45th Space Wing commander, who served as the mission’s Launch Decision Authority for the last time prior to her change of command ceremony Aug. 4, echoed Gen. Hyten’s comments.
“General Hyten is right on the money; it IS pretty amazing the work our Airmen do,” she said.
“And while I 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, let me just say the greatest professional experience of my life has been to lead the Airmen — ‘The Big A” — who make up Team Patrick-Cape,” she said.
“I have had the privilege of working with the greatest space team ever assembled for the past two-plus years — highly motivated, very well trained, remarkably innovative and always able to keep their focus on the mission in front of them,” she said.
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