GPS IIF-9 Successfully Lifts Off from Cape Canaveral

March 25, 2015  - By
Photo credit: ULA.

Photo credit: ULA.

UPDATE: The GPS satellite has been deployed by the Delta IV rocket, completing today’s launch. The deployment occcurred as scheduled about 3 hours after launch.

The U.S. Air Force’s ninth GPS Block IIF satellite (GPS IIF-9) launched on time Wednesday at 2:36 p.m. EDT (1836 GMT) from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

The GPS IIF-9 rode aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket, which has been the workhorse of the GPS fleet for successful launches.

GPS IIF-9 is one of the next-generation GPS satellites, incorporating various improvements to provide greater accuracy, increased signals, and enhanced performance for users.

The Air Force and the 45th Space Wing supported the successful launch of the ULA rocket. This launch is the fourth ULA launch this year and the 95th launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

GPS IIF-9 launched aboard a Delta IV Medium-plus (4,2) Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, 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.

GPS Launch Workhorse. The launch marks the 29th Delta IV launch and the 57th operational GPS satellite to launch on a ULA or heritage launch vehicle. Delta IV has delivered numerous satellites for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), as well as GPS satellites for the Air Force and weather satellites for NASA, according to a ULA media release.

“Many thought the Delta IV and GPS days were long gone, but the recent questions concerning reliable and proven launch vehicles have brought them back online, so to speak, for GPS,” said GPS World Defense Editor Don Jewell. The upcoming (April 27) 20-year milestone for GPS space vehicles on orbit translates to approximately 500 orbital years just for the IIR and IIF constellations alone,” Jewell said. “The IIAs may account for that many orbital hours as well. Quite a record, and something of which the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and all the companies involved should be very proud.”

Yet Another USAF Success. Jewell points out that this is another successful government launch in a long string of successive launches, without a failure. “It is by far the most successful launch record ever put together by any nation or government. No other space-faring nation even comes close. The U.S. Air Force and all the players should be proud of all these records and more, plus we have one more GPS asset on orbit, providing GPS signals to the world and all they enable, courtesy of the USAF.”

“I’m elated with today’s successful launch, the GPS constellation remains healthy, strong and robust and in over 20 years since initial operational capability, GPS has never failed to deliver on its global positioning, navigation, and timing commitments,” said Brig. Gen. Cooley, director of Space and Missile Systems Center’s Global Positioning Systems Directorate.

“Each new generation of GPS satellites provides enhanced capability over the prior generations, and has delivered reliable performance demonstrating our commitment that GPS remain the Gold Standard space-based positioning, navigation, and timing service for the future,” Cooley said. “Thanks to the men and women of SMC, the 45th, 50th 310th Space Wings, Boeing, United Launch Alliance, the Aerospace Corporation, GPS IIF and Delta IV launch teams, the GPS IIF program continues to meet GPS enterprise needs.”

45th Space Wing. Once again, the 45th Space Wing team of military personnel, government civilians, and contractors provided support to the ULA launch of the Air Force Space Command mission, including weather forecasts, launch and range operations, security, safety, and public affairs.

The 45th Space Wing commander was both proud and pleased with the team she works with on the Eastern Range. “First, let me 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,” said Brig. Gen. Nina Armagno, 45th Space Wing commander, who also served as the Launch Decision Authority.

“What a treat — and an honor — it is to know that we have played such a significant part in something that we will celebrate two decades of helping people all around the world,” Armagno said. “Every GPS satellite since the program’s inception has been launched right here from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station safely and reliably by members of the 45th Space Wing.

“And that’s because we continue to take a ‘one launch at a time’ mentality and focus on our number one priority — 100 percent Mission Success. I am so very proud to be part of Team Patrick-Cape.”

Constellation Changes. The Air Force Second Space Operations Squadron (2 SOPS) indicates that IIF-9, SVN-71/PRN-26, will replace SVN-35 (currently being operated in Launch, Anomaly Resolution and Disposal Operations [LADO]) in the B plane slot 1F. SVN-35 is a GPS 2A-22 satellite originally launched aboard Delta 222 on August 30, 1993. It was decommissioned from active service in 2009, remained in orbit as a spare, then was set usable again in 2011. The satellite was declared unusable in 2013 and decommissioned a second time, reports Spaceflight Now. It was tested again in 2014.

SVN-38/PRN-08 will be taken out of the operational constellation prior to SVN-71 payload initialization and sent to LADO. PRN-08 will be assigned to SVN-49 in May and set to test, but is tentatively scheduled for assignment to IIF-10 to launch June 16.

SVN-35, launched on August 30, 1993, has been in a residual status since March 2013 in an expanded node slot in the B plane and successfully served 21.5 years, 14.0 years beyond its designed service life, due to the diligent efforts of the men and women of the U.S. Air Force.

SVN-51 is still in a re-phase journey from E1 (GLAN=146 °) to an auxiliary node at E7 (GLAN=60.7 °) scheduled to arrive sometime this summer.

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