The end to a busy year for the United Launch Alliance (ULA) has seen the launch of their Delta II launch vehicle, carrying the GPS IIR-18 spacecraft into orbit for the United States Air Force, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Following a nominal 1 hour and 8 minute flight, the launch vehicle successfully deployed the GPS IIR-18(M) spacecraft, the fifth modernized NAVSTAR Global Positioning System Block II R-M military navigation satellite.
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‘With the launch of GPS IIR-18(M), ULA completes a tremendously successful first year of operation and demonstrates its commitment to 100 percent mission success,’ said Mark Wilkins, vice president of Delta Programs.
‘As we continue to provide safe, cost-effective, reliable access to space, we are privileged to serve an important role in critical missions, such as GPS, which are force multipliers for our men and women in uniform serving our country throughout the world.’
‘Our team is now focused on performing a rapid and efficient on-orbit checkout to quickly place the satellite’s advanced navigational capabilities into operational service.’
The 13th launch of the year for a busy ULA comes via their eighth launch of the Delta II launch vehicle – the second carrying a USAF payload. The latter part of 2007 has seen eight launches for ULA in the space of just 94 days.
Thursday’s launch is utilizing the 7925-9.5 variant of the Delta II – a three stage vehicle involving nine strap on solid rocket motors (six ground start, three air start). The ride to spacecraft separation will take 68 minutes.
The spacecraft riding on the Delta II is the fifth in a series of eight modernized Global Positioning System Block IIR (GPS IIR-M) satellites built by Lockheed Martin for the USAF.
The spacecraft, designated GPS IIR-18M, is a modernized version of the Block IIR series designed to enhance the GPS constellation for military and civilian GPS users around the globe.
The modernized series delivers 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 to provide users with an open access signal on a different frequency.
The GPS constellation provides critical situational awareness and precision weapon guidance for the military and supports a wide range of civil, scientific and commercial functions – from air traffic control to the Internet – with precision location and timing information.
‘Built by a dedicated, experienced team, this advanced satellite will provide another step forward in our customer’s goal to modernize the GPS constellation,’ said Don DeGryse, Lockheed Martin’s vice president of Navigation Systems. ‘We are extremely proud of our partnership with the Air Force to maintain and enhance the vitally important GPS mission and we look forward to achieving mission success for our customer.’
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 and subsequently modernized eight of those spacecraft, designated Block IIR-M, for the Global Positioning Systems Wing, Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif.
‘The Delta team is proud to be the launch provider for the Air Force Global Positioning System (GPS) program by delivering replenishment satellites to orbit aboard the Delta II rocket. GPS satellites serve and protect our war fighters by providing navigational assistance for U.S. military operations on land, at sea and in the air,’ noted a joint statement from John Gerlitz, Director USAF/MLV-III Program Delta II and Major Walt Jimenez Program Manager (Acting) Delta Launch Group.
‘Civilian users around the world also use and depend on GPS for directional assistance. GPS IIR-18 (M) is the fifth of the modernized GPS satellites, incorporating various improvements to provide greater accuracy, increased resistance to interference and enhanced performance for users.
‘We wish to thank our Delta II team, which consists of the U. S. Air Force, The Aerospace Corporation, ULA, and major suppliers of ULA, for their continued hard work and commitment to mission success. We look forward to continuing our support for the Air Force aboard Delta II launch vehicles.’
Full mission background is available on the live event page – linked above.