[updated July 16] Boeing has received the first on-orbit signals from the second of 12 GPS Block IIF satellites it is building for the U.S. Air Force. GPS IIF-2, renamed Space Vehicle Number 63 (SVN-63), is functioning normally and ready to begin on-orbit maneuvers and operational testing.
After two postponements, the second GPS Block IIF satellite launched successfully from Cape Canaveral at 2:41 a.m. EDT on July 16. GPS signals from the spacecraft payload will be turned on for test purposes in the coming days
The GPS IIF satellites will provide greater navigation accuracy to
users through improvements in atomic clock technology and a more robust
signal for commercial aviation and safety-of-life applications, known as
the third civil signal (L5). Along with new and improved signals GPS
IIF will have a longer design life of 12 years, providing long-term
service and reduced operating costs. GPS IIF will also continue to
deploy the modernized capabilities that began with the modernized GPS
IIR satellites, including a more robust military signal.
"I'm extremely pleased with today's successful launch; the GPS
system's overall navigational accuracy will improve as more GPS IIF
space vehicles are put into service," said Col. Bernie Gruber, director of the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center's (SMC's) Global Positioning Systems Directorate.
Following launch, the Delta IV vehicle placed SVN-63 into medium Earth orbit.
SVN-63 will assume the plane D, slot 2A position, replacing SVN-24 which has logged
nearly 20 years of service.
With safety checks completed, checkout will begin under the direction of the Air Force GPS Directorate. Checkout includes payload and system checks to verify operability with the GPS constellation of satellites, ground receivers, and the Operational Control Segment system.
Boeing will officially turn over SVN-63 to the Air Force 50th Space Wing and the 2nd Space Operations Squadron after the spacecraft completes on-orbit checkout. The satellite is expected to be available
for navigation users worldwide next month, according to the SMC.
This was the first GPS launch since the May 27, 2010, flight of GPS IIF-1.
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