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Helping GPS find its way to the stars

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Here at the 45th Space Wing, the "World's Premier Gateway to Space," a new generation of Global Positioning System satellites, GPS IIF, has successfully launched and is on its way to join the GPS constellation.

The GPS IIF satellite was launched by the U.S. Air Force with a Delta IV evolved expendable launch vehicle at 11:00 p.m. EDT Thursday from Space Launch Complex 37 here. The rocket allowed for the payload to be directly injected into orbit saving onboard fuel for station keeping maneuvers.

"The 45th Space Wing, Space and Missile Systems Center, GPS Wing, Boeing and United Launch Alliance team are proud to have launched the first installment of the GPS Block IIF," said Col Andre Lovett, 45th Space Wing vice commander, who served as Launch Decision Authority. "This mission proves our dedication to deliver space effects that benefit, protect and defend our nation."

"Not only is it the first IIF to be launched, this is the first GPS satellite to ride on the Delta IV evolved expendable launch vehicle," said Lt. Col. Lance Jones, 5th Space Launch Squadron director of operations.

Getting the payload on orbit might sound like the hard part, but the testing and processing that happened at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is an important step.

When the satellite arrived via aircraft it was carefully offloaded and delivered to the main bay at Area 59 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The primary Air Force responsible engineer 2nd Lt. Thomas Shields, and his teammates ran a series of tests and procedures to ensure that satellite will perform correctly on orbit.

"We are here to make sure everything works and any anomalies are addressed before the payload goes on orbit," said Lieutenant Shields. "It takes a lot of teamwork and determination, but our dedication here and now assures mission success for everyone that uses GPS in the future."

Electrical tests were first conducted at the Boeing factory and again here to assure proper specifications are met and was followed by testing signals with the 19th Space Operations Squadron at Schriever AFB, Colo.

One of the new signals being tested is the L5. Primarily a "safety-of-life" signal for aircraft navigation, it will also act as a third signal for all users. GPS civilian applications include ATMs, bank and stock market transactions and power grid management.


"The GPS IIF satellites will provide all the capabilities of the previous generations and add an extended design life of 12 years, faster processors with more memory, and a new civil signal on a third frequency," said Lieutenant Nicolle Ng, Spacecraft Responsible Engineer.

The GPS IIF vehicle is critical to U.S. national security and sustaining GPS constellation availability for global civil, commercial and defense applications. Besides sustaining the GPS constellation, IIF features increased capability and improved mission performance and longevity.

The launch was the 10th flight of a Delta IV rocket from Cape Canaveral AFS. It was the fourth launch of an evolved expendable launch vehicle and the seventh launch this year on the Eastern Range.

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