Air Force readies penultimate GPS IIF satellite for launch

Air Force ULA GPS IIF satellite

The 11th GPS IIF satellite in encapsulated earlier this month at Cape Canaveral.

The Air Force is planning to launch the latest of the GPS IIF series of satellite on Oct. 30, with a 19 minute window that opens at 12:17 p.m. EDT.

The Boeing-built satellite will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

The launch will send the 11th in a series of 12 total GPS satellites into orbit – the final launch date has been floated for Feb. 3, 2016, while the satellite undergoes final processing and preparation.  The tenth GPS IIF satellite was launched into orbit in July.  

With 10 GPS IIF satellites already in orbit providing “improved signals that will enhance the precise global positioning, navigation and timing services supporting both the warfighter and the growing civilian needs of our global economy,” setbacks persist for the GPS III constellation, which is expected to affordably replace the current GPS satellites.

Budget cuts have slowed down the GPS III program, but the delays have been ameliorated by the fact that GPS II satellite have lasted longer that originally expected. GPS III contractor Lockheed Martin announced in May that the GPS III satellites—of which there are expected to be 32 rounding out the total constellation—were ready to begin testing. The first launch is projected for 2017. 

The GPS III constellation is billed as having a 25 percent longer life capability, three times the accuracy and eight times the effective anti-jamming capabilities.

"The GPS IIF satellites play a key role in our modernization effort to provide new space-based capabilities for users around the globe and for decades to come," said Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, the Space and Missile Systems Center commander and Air Force program executive officer for space. "We have successfully placed into operation 10 in a series of 12 procured Boeing-built space vehicles, and thanks to the exceptional team of government, industry and launch personnel we are poised to launch the 11th GPS IIF satellite aboard an Atlas V 401 launch vehicle later this week.”

The GPS constellation is operated by the Air Force Space Command’s 50th Space Wing, located at Schriever Air Force Base east of Colorado Springs, Colo. According to a recent 
60 Minutes visit to Schriever Air Force Base, only eight personnel are responsible for the entire global GPS constellation. 

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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