The latest Boeing Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF satellite sent initial signals from space shortly after launch May 16, marking the second GPS IIF launch this year and the halfway point of the 12 launches ordered by the U.S. Air Force to sustain and modernize the GPS constellation, reports Beoing in a recent press release.
“Boeing has continued to maintain a robust tempo of deliveries to meet U.S. Air Force requirements, with the next GPS IIF already on deck in Florida for a third-quarter liftoff,” said Craig Cooning, vice president and general manager of Space and Intelligence Systems. “As a prime contractor on the GPS program since the first launch in 1978, our experience with these complex and critically important spacecraft spans nearly 40 years and now covers 44 satellites delivered into orbit with continuing mission support.”
The latest GPS IIF was launched at 8:03 p.m. Eastern Time from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket. A bit more than three hours later, Boeing controllers in El Segundo confirmed the spacecraft was sending nominal signals from its orbit approximately 11,000 nautical miles above Earth.
The satellite will undergo activation and systems checkout before handover to the Air Force as part of the GPS constellation.
The Boeing GPS IIF satellite, the fourth generation of Boeing GPS space vehicles, is providing the most precise navigation clocks to date, along with improved accuracy, greater security and anti-jam capabilities.
As for agriculture, Trimble’s John Pointon notes that “in the short term, the addition of a GPS satellite will be very welcome once it comes on line. Planting season users in the Midwest have experienced some difficulties due to a relatively low number of GPS satellites at certain times of the day. If they were also using GLONASS then that helped a lot, but the ‘GPS only’ group did have some loss of positioning.”
The main enhancements in this satellite benefit the military users, he adds, “but it’s high time we had some additional GPS satellites, as the Block II sats are now well beyond their expected lifespan.”