by Staff Writers
Cape Canaveral AFS FL (SPX) Feb 05, 2016
The 45th Space Wing supported the U.S. Air Force's twelfth launch of a Boeing-built Global Positioning System IIF satellite aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V from Space Launch Complex 41 here Feb. 5 at 8:38 a.m. EST.
"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.
"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."
An Airmen-led processing team at CCAFS has processed every satellite of the series since GPS IIF-1 launched here in May 2010.
"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.
Eastern Range instrumentation provides radar tracking, telemetry, communications, command/control sites, camera and optical sites, and other support capabilities such as meteorology. Instrumentation is necessary to safely and successfully conduct civil, commercial, and national security spacelift operations and ballistic missile tests and evaluation. Eastern Range assets are based on dependable designs and technology, and are arrayed in a highly efficient architecture designed to ensure safety of the launch environment and the public at large.
Boeing, U.S. Air Force Complete GPS IIF Constellation
Following on-orbit tests, GPS IIF-12 will be formally declared operational in approximately one month, making it the 50th GPS satellite Boeing will have delivered on orbit to the Air Force.
Since the first launch on May 27, 2010, the GPS IIFs have advanced the Air Force's Global Positioning System modernization program by improving accuracy and security while introducing new civilian and military capabilities to a system used by millions of people around the world.
"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."
Boeing has been the prime contractor for GPS since the program's inception, providing multiple generations of satellites that have collectively accrued more than 540 years of on-orbit operation.
GPS IIF-12 lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle at 8:38 a.m. EST. About three hours and 23 minutes later the spacecraft was released into its medium Earth orbit of about 12,000 miles. Signal acquisition was confirmed at 12:09 p.m. EST.
Orbital ATK Products Enable Completion of GPS Constellation
The dozen Block IIF GPS satellites replace older, first-generation GPS satellites and provide improved accuracy, signal strength and quality to America's warfighters, allies and civilian users worldwide. Boeing (NYSE: BA) designed and built the GPS IIF satellites for the U.S. Air Force.
"It is exciting to see another Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) launch in which Orbital ATK's structures and components contributed to the combined success of both the launch vehicle and satellite," said Steve Earl, Vice President and General Manager of Orbital ATK's Aerospace Structures Division. "Orbital ATK is honored to have supported both the U.S. Air Force and ULA throughout the completion of our next generation GPS constellation."
For the ULA Atlas V rocket, Orbital ATK produced the 10-foot diameter composite heat shield, which provides higher performance with lower weight, and essential protection for the first stage of the launch vehicle from engine exhaust temperatures in excess of 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The assembly was fabricated using advanced fiber placement manufacturing techniques at Orbital ATK's Iuka, Mississippi, facility. This marked the 60th ULA Atlas V launch using Orbital ATK-built composite structures.
This flight marked the 24th successful flight of the Orbital ATK retro motors. Eight of these solid motors provided thrust for separation of the spent first stage. The ULA Atlas V retrorocket is built at Orbital ATK's Elkton, Maryland, facility.
Orbital ATK's Space Components Division facility in Commerce, California manufactured the Reaction Control System (RCS) propellant tanks for the ULA Atlas V rocket.
Air Force Space Command
GPS Applications, Technology and Suppliers
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