Delta II launch success with GPS Block IIR

by Chris Bergin

A Lockheed Martin GPS Block IIR-16 satellite has launched on a Boeing Delta II launch vehicle Friday. Lift-off was at 19:13 GMT (2:13 pm EST).

Both Boeing and Lockheed Martin spoke of their pride, following the successful mission conclusion of the launch, which was confirmed by spacecraft seperation 68 minutes later after lift-off from Cape Canaveral.

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‘We are extremely proud of our ability to deliver mission success for our customer,’ said Don DeGryse, Lockheed Martin’s vice president of Navigation Systems.

‘The modernized IIR-M program is providing new capabilities for navigation users around the globe and we look forward to executing a timely and efficient on-orbit checkout of this world-class, high-performance spacecraft.’

 ‘Our Delta team understands the importance GPS satellites play in protecting our military and helping them defend our country,’ said Dan Collins, vice president and general manager, Boeing Launch Systems.

‘The Delta II vehicle has a strong record of performance, and I am proud of the team’s commitment to mission success and our role in sustaining the GPS constellation.’


The mission is being carried out for the US Air Force, placing the third modernized GPS spacecraft built by Lockheed Martin Navigation Systems into a 11,000 mile circular orbit, to join the first two IIR-M spacecraft and 12 other operational Block IIR satellites currently on-orbit within the overall 30-spacecraft constellation.

Known as GPS IIR-M, the modernized spacecraft are the most technologically advanced GPS satellites ever developed and are designed to provide significantly improved navigation performance for U.S. military and civilian users worldwide.

Lockheed Martin are under contract to build a total of eight modernized IIR spacecraft for the Global Positioning Systems Wing, Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base,

The GPS constellation is designed and operated as a 24-satellite system, consisting of six planes, with a minimum of four satellites per plane. The GPS satellites are placed into nearly 11,000-mile circular orbits. While circling the Earth, the systems transmit signals on three different L-band frequencies. Their design life is 10 years.

The GPS IIR-M series offers a variety of enhanced features for GPS users, such as a modernized antenna panel that provides increased signal power to receivers on the ground, two new military signals for improved accuracy, enhanced encryption and anti-jamming capabilities for the military, and a second civil signal that will provide users with an open access signal on a different frequency.

Carrying the satellite in orbit will be the Delta II – 7925-9.5 version – launch vehicle, aiming to extend a near faultless reliability record, standing at 98.3 percent over 118 launches.

The Delta II 7925-9.5 configuration vehicle features a Boeing first stage booster powered by a Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RS-27A main engine and nine Alliant Techsystems (ATK) solid rocket boosters.

An Aerojet AJ10-118K engine powered the storable propellant restartable second stage. A Thiokol Star-48B solid rocket motor propelled the third stage prior to spacecraft deployment. The rocket also flew with a nine-and-a-half-foot diameter Boeing payload fairing.

A redundant inertial flight control assembly built by L3 Communications Space & Navigation provided guidance and control for the rocket, enabling a precise deployment of the satellite.

The IIR-16 mission comes six weeks after the successful launch of another vehicle in the Delta family, the Delta IV/DMSP-17 (Defense Meteorological Satellite Program), from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin engineers carried out the successful completion of a System Requirements Review (SRR) for the satellite, on Thursday.

‘This important review successfully demonstrated our requirements maturity and readiness to proceed with a low risk, high confidence program to provide exceptional positioning and timing capabilities for both military and civil users worldwide,’ said Don DeGryse, vice president, Lockheed Martin Navigation Systems. 

‘We look forward to working with our customer to achieve mission success on this critical initiative.’

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