USAF launches sixth Boeing GPS IIF satellite onboard Delta IV rocket


GPS IIF-6

The US Air Force (USAF) has successfully test launched the sixth Boeing-built global positioning system (GPS) IIF (GPS IIF-6) satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (AFS) in Florida, US.

Launched aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV medium rocket, the satellite sent initial signals from its orbit to its manufacturer approximately three-and-a-half hours later.

The satellite is now scheduled to undergo activation and systems checkout prior to handover to the air force as part of the GPS constellation.

Space and Missile Systems Centers Global Positioning Systems Directorate director colonel Bill Cooley said, "Today's successful launch demonstrates our combined government and industry team's dedication to mission success, ensuring GPS continues to be the Gold Standard for space-based positioning, navigation and timing."

Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems vice-president and general manager Craig Cooning said, "Boeing has continued to maintain a robust tempo of deliveries to meet US Air Force requirements, with the next GPS IIF already on deck in Florida for a third-quarter liftoff."

Capable of providing jam-resistant military signals in hostile environments, the GPS IIF satellites are an interim class of next-generation satellites designed to replace the GPS Block IIA satellites, which were launched between 1990 and 1997.

"The GPS IIF satellites are an interim class of next-generation satellites designed to replace the GPS Block IIA satellites."

Apart from offering greater navigational accuracy through improvements in atomic clock technology, the satellites also deliver a second civil signal (L2C) for dual-frequency equipment, and a new third civil signal (L5) to support commercial aviation and safety-of-life applications.

Boeing, which is under contract with the US Department of Defense (DoD) for the production of 12 GPS IIF satellites, has to date manufactured six satellites.

The first four satellites were launched aboard a Delta IV vehicle in May 2010, July 2011, November 2012 and May 2013, respectively, while the remaining six are under various stages of development at the Boeing Satellite Development Center in El Segundo, California, US.


Image: The sixth USAF GPS IIF satellite lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, US. Photo: courtesy of United Launch Alliance.

Defence Technology