Tomorrow, May 21, the first of 12 ‘next generation’ GPS satellites will head into space.
Boeing announced that the first of 12 Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF navigation spacecraft that the company is building for the U.S. Air Force has successfully completed prelaunch testing. The satellite, GPS IIF-1, is scheduled for a May 20 launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
GPS is a space-based, worldwide navigation system providing users with highly accurate, three-dimensional position, navigation and timing information 24 hours a day in all weather conditions. The 12 GPS IIF satellites feature stronger and more precise signals that will enhance the services that support U.S. warfighters, their allies, and civilian GPS users around the world.
“These next-generation satellites provide improved accuracy through advanced atomic clocks; a more jam-resistant military signal and a longer design life than earlier GPS satellites; and a new civil signal that benefits aviation safety and search-and-rescue efforts,” said Craig Cooning, vice president and general manager, Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems. “GPS IIF is the culmination of our deep experience with 39 successful satellites from previous missions, representing more than 30 years of teamwork with the Air Force.”
“GPS is used by nearly a billion people worldwide for everything from farming and aviation to public safety, disaster relief and recreation, not to mention its military purpose of providing precision navigation and timing to combat forces,” said Air Force Col. David Madden, GPS Wing Commander. “GPS IIF will increase the signal power, precision and capacity of the system, and form the core of the GPS constellation for years to come.”
As the first spacecraft in the GPS IIF series, GPS IIF-1 underwent stringent and comprehensive testing following shipment to the launch site in February. Tests included verification of key satellite functions as well as end-to-end system testing to verify operations between the satellite and the Boeing-built ground control segment at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado. Commands were sent from Schriever to GPS IIF-1 at Cape Canaveral to turn on payloads, reprogram processors, and verify interoperability with user receivers and equipment, both civil and military.
In April, the Air Force and Boeing team completed a comprehensive series of prelaunch exercises. These included a mission dress rehearsal and two integrated crew exercises that involved all GPS IIF launch and missions operations crews, from controllers at Schriever to space vehicle engineers and range radar operators at Cape Canaveral to tracking stations around the world.