Continuing a record of perfect mission reliability, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket successfully launched the 12th Boeing-built Global Positioning System GPS IIF satellite this morning from Space Launch Complex 41, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. 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.
“Today’s launch marks a momentous milestone in the history of the Global Positioning System. It is the twelfth and last GPS IIF satellite and closes out nearly 27 years of launches for the GPS Block II family of satellites,” said Col. Shawn Fairhurst, 45th SW vice commander, who served as the Launch Decision Authority.
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.
“As the nation’s premier gateway to space, we are proud to be part of the team providing GPS and its capabilities to the world and look forward to the future as we begin preparation for the next generation of GPS III satellites. Together with the Space and Missile Systems Center and our industry partners, we make up one team delivering assured space launch and combat capabilities for the nation,” said Fairhurst
“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.”
“Today’s launch is a significant achievement in the history of GPS, as we launch the last of the GPS IIF satellites to be delivered on-orbit,” said Greaves.
“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.
Today’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 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.
According to Greaves, this mission demonstrates the Air Force’s continued intent to deliver pre-eminent space-based positioning, navigation and timing service to users around the globe.
GPS IIF is critical to U.S. national security and to sustainment of the GPS constellation for civil, commercial, and military users. GPS IIF satellites play an integral part in the modernization efforts vigorously being pursued across space, ground and user equipment to provide stronger signals and improved resiliency in the GPS constellation.
The Boeing-built GPS IIF satellites provides 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. It also continues to deploy the modernized capabilities that began with the GPS IIR-M satellites, including a more robust military signal.
GPS is the United States Department of Defense’s largest satellite constellation with 31-operational satellites on orbit.
Operated by Air Force Space Command’s 50th Space Wing at Schriever Air Force Base, located east of Colorado Springs, Colo., the GPS constellation provides precise positioning, navigation and timing services worldwide as a free service provided by the Air Force, seven days a week, 24-hours a day.
The next launch for EELV will be a 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.
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