Delta II launches with US Air Force’s GPS IIR-17M

by Chris Bergin

A United Launch Alliance Delta II 7925-9.5 launch vehicle has lifted-off with the US Air Force’s Global Positioning System (GPS) IIR-17M satellite. Launch was at 8:23am Eastern, from Launch Complex 17A at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. covered the launch as a live event, with background, live updates, images and free video, available on the links below (read more).


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“Lockheed Martin is extremely proud of its partnership with the Air Force to sustain and improve the GPS constellation,” said Don DeGryse, Lockheed Martin’s vice president of Navigation Systems.

“We look forward to executing a timely and efficient on-orbit checkout of this advanced spacecraft and providing GPS users worldwide with increased navigation capabilities.”

Mission background:

The 126 feet tall Delta II 7925-9.5 is a three-stage vehicle which includes nine strap-on solid propellant rocket motors and a 9.5-foot diameter payload fairing.

The Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RS-27A main engine is powered by liquid oxygen and RP-1 (kerosene). The second stage is powered by an Aerojet AJ10-118K engine, burning Aerozine-50 fuel and nitrogen tetroxide oxidizer. The third stage is Thiokol’s Star 48B solid-propellant stage.

The Navstar Global Positioning System (GPS) is a constellation of orbiting satellites that provides navigation data to military and civilian users all over the world. The system is operated and controlled by the 50th Space Wing, located at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado.

GPS IIR-17 (M) will be the fourth modernized NAVSTAR GPS military navigation satellite to launch.

‘We take great pride in our partnership with the Air Force on this vitally important system,’ said Don DeGryse, Lockheed Martin’s vice president of Navigation Systems, and we look forward to extending our excellent record of delivering advanced navigation capabilities that better serve our warfighters and civil users around the globe.’

Lockheed Martin Navigation Systems, Valley Forge, Pa. prime contractor for the GPS IIR program and navigation payload provider ITT of Clifton, N.J. designed and built 21 IIR spacecraft for the Global Positioning Systems Wing, Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif.

‘We are excited to continue our long, successful partnership with ITT in providing our customer with high performance positioning and timing capabilities for both military and civil users worldwide,’ noted DeGryse after striking a deal with ITT last year. ‘With a focus on mission success, we look forward to offering an incremental, low risk solution for the government on this critical national initiative.’

‘We are confident that by fully partnering with Lockheed Martin we are best positioned to continue to provide high-performance, reliable GPS payload systems to support this national asset,’ added Dick Arra, vice president, ITT Space Systems Division Navigation group.

‘Building on more than 35 years experience and 100 percent on-orbit mission success, we’re able to deliver cost effective solutions that meet today’s more demanding requirements.’

The final eight spacecraft, designated Block IIR-M, were modernized to enhance operations and navigation signal performance for military and civilian GPS users around the globe. Lockheed Martin is also responsible for launch and flight operations support of the GPS IIR and IIR-M satellites.

For the future, the USAF will move towards a Block III version of the satellites, which will be built once again by the Lockheed Martin, ITT team.

‘As the complete navigation payload provider for every GPS IIR satellite ever launched, ITT is proud to serve on Lockheed Martin’s GPS III team,’ said Chris Young, president of ITT Space Systems Division. ‘We are committed to leveraging this expertise from across the company to deliver increased capabilities and security to future civil and military GPS III users worldwide.’

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