ULA Atlas V Delivers Final GPS IIF Navigation Satellite to Orbit for USAF – Critical to Military/Civilian Users

United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the GPS IIF-12 mission lifted off at 8:38 a.m. EST on Feb. 5, 2016 from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION – Despite howling winds and unseasonably frigid temperatures in the ‘sunshine state’, United Launch Alliance’s workhorse Atlas V rocket successfully blasted off this morning, Friday, Feb 5, and delivered the final GPS satellite in the IIF series to orbit for the US Air Force.

The ULA Atlas V carried the Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF-12 navigation satellite to orbit – thus completing the constellation of next generation GPS IIF satellites that are critical to both military and civilian users on a 24/7 basis.

These GPS IIF satellites incorporate numerous improvements over the initial series of GPS satellites to provide greater accuracy, increased signals and enhanced performance for users.

“The GPS IIF series of satellites provides positional accuracy to with 1.5 meters (4 feet),” Lt. Col. Tom Ste. Marie told Universe Today during an interview at the media’s launch viewing site.

The commercial Atlas V rocket thundered aloft from the seaside Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida at 8:38 a.m. EST.

Today’s launch was the first launch of 2016 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It also marks ULA’s first mission of 2016 and the 60th operational GPS mission to launch on a ULA or heritage rocket. It is also the 104th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

The first GPS IIF satellite was launched in May 2010.

The Global Positioning System GPS IIF-12 satellite was encapsulated inside the 4 meter diameter nosecone atop the twenty story tall Atlas V rocket.

Today’s picture perfect launch into clear blue skies took place just hours after widespread, drenching showers inundated the Florida space coast and threatened to scrub the mission.

“Congratulations to the ULA, Boeing and Air Force teams on the successful launch of GPS IIF-12,” said Laura Maginnis, ULA vice president, Custom Services, in a statement.

“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.”

These GPS satellites are manufactured by Boeing.

“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, in a statement.

“We continue investing in GPS innovation while driving down costs, keeping GPS prepared to meet current and future demands.”

Boeing says the GPS IIF-12 will be formally declared operational in approximately one month after completing on-orbit tests.

The GPS constellation is currently comprised of 31 satellites including several still functioning satellites from the inaugural series. Altogether Boeing has delivered 50 GPS satellites to the Air Force.

The Atlas V rocket delivered the GPS IIF-12 satellite to a semi-synchronous circular orbit at an altitude of approximately 11,000 nautical miles above Earth.

The two stage Atlas V launch in the 401 configuration. This includes the first stage powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine and a single engine Centaur upper stage powered by the Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C-1 engine.

There were no strap on solid rocket motors used for this mission. The payload is encapsulated in a 4-meter diameter payload fairing.

The launcher also 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, says ULA.

Starting later in 2017, the Atlas V rocket will power US astronauts back to orbit. They will ascend the newly built crew access tower at pad 41 to board the Boeing-built CST-100 Starliner space taxi bolted atop the Atlas V.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

The post ULA Atlas V Delivers Final GPS IIF Navigation Satellite to Orbit for USAF – Critical to Military/Civilian Users appeared first on Universe Today.

First Atlas Launch of 2016 Set For Blastoff with Air Force GPS Satellite on Feb. 5 – Watch Live

ULA Atlas V carrying UASF GPS navigation satellite is poised for blastoff on Feb. 5, 2016 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.  Newly installed crew access tower stands to right of Atlas rocket. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION – The first launch of 2016 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, is poised for blastoff on Friday, Feb. 5, and features a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying a US Air Force payload that will fortify the GPS constellation of navigation satellites that is critically important to military and civilian users on a 24/7 basis.

The commercial Atlas V rocket was rolled out to Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida this morning, Thursday, Feb. 4. The USAF Global Positioning System GPS IIF-12 satellite is encapsulated in the 4 meter diameter nosecone.

Liftoff of ULA’s workhorse Atlas V rocket from the seaside pad 41 is slated for 8:38 a.m. EST, at the opening of a 19-minute long launch window.

Scores of spectators from across the country are gathering to witness this maiden Cape launch of 2016, as local hotels sell out.

You can also watch a live webcast of the Feb. 5 launch via ULA’s website here: http://www.ulalaunch.com

The live broadcast will begin at 8:18 a.m. EST and features informative commentary all about the Atlas V rocket and the importance and uses of the GPS constellation of satellites.

In case any last minute weather or technical issues arise, ULA can still launch the rocket until the window closes at 8:57 a.m. EST.

The current weather forecast shows a 40% chance of favorable weather conditions at launch time. The primary concerns are for clouds and high ground level winds.
Heavy rains are currently rolling through the Florida space coast area on Thursday afternoon and evening.

In case of a scrub, the next launch opportunity is Saturday.

The GPS IIF-12 satellite is the last of the current generation GPS satellites,” incorporating various improvements to provide greater accuracy, increased signals, and enhanced performance for users.”

“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.”

In one way or another everyone uses and benefits from the GPS satellites on a daily basis around the clock.

The Atlas V rocket will deliver carry the GPS IIF-12 satellite to a semi-synchronous circular orbit.

The GPS constellation is comprised of 24 satellites that orbit the Earth at an altitude of approximately 11,000 nautical miles.

Friday’s launch marks ULA’s first mission of 2016 and the 60th operational GPS mission to launch on a ULA or heritage rocket.

The Atlas V will launch in the 401 configuration. This include a single engine Centaur upper stage and no solid rocket motors.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

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Learn more ULA Atlas rocket, SpaceX, Orbital ATK Cygnus, ISS, Boeing, Space Taxis, Mars rovers, Orion, SLS, Antares, NASA missions and more at Ken’s upcoming outreach events:

Feb 1 to 4: “ULA, SpaceX, SLS, Orion, Commercial crew, Curiosity explores Mars, Pluto and more,” Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, evenings

The post First Atlas Launch of 2016 Set For Blastoff with Air Force GPS Satellite on Feb. 5 – Watch Live appeared first on Universe Today.

ULA Skips Competitive Bid for Air Force GPS Launch Contract, Door Opens to SpaceX

United Launch Alliance (ULA) has decided to skip the bidding competition for launch of the next generation U.S. Air Force GPS military navigation satellites, a company spokesperson confirmed to Universe Today, meaning that rival SpaceX is set to win its first military launch contract as the only other certified contract contender. Since bids for the […]

Rocket ‘Anomaly’ Blamed For Putting European Navigation Satellites Into Wrong Orbits

An independent investigation committee is looking at why two European navigation satellites are in the wrong orbits following their launch from French Guiana last week. While the first part of the launch went well, officials said telemetry from the satellites showed that the satellites were not where they were supposed to be. The probe is […]

Rocket ‘Anomaly’ Blamed For Putting European Navigation Satellites Into Wrong Orbits

An independent investigation committee is looking at why two European navigation satellites are in the wrong orbits following their launch from French Guiana last week. While the first part of the launch went well, officials said telemetry from the satellites showed that the satellites were not where they were supposed to be. The probe is […]