Thursday, March 26, 2009

Space operations units assume control of new GPS satellite

by Staff Sgt. Don Branum, 50th Space Wing Public Affairs

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFNS) -- The 2nd and 19th Space Operations Squadrons here assumed control of the Air Force's newest GPS satellite shortly after its launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., March 24.

The satellite, named GPS IIR-20(M), is the 34th satellite in the GPS constellation, which provides precise navigation and timing data to military and civilian customers around the world.

Space operators with 2nd SOPS and 19th SOPS took over early-orbit operations for the new satellite 68 minutes after launch, said Lt. Col. Douglas Schiess, 2nd SOPS operations officer.

"We're getting it ready to provide its combat effects to warfighters as soon as possible," Colonel Schiess said. "It's a great team effort by 2nd SOPS and 19th SOPS."

GPS IIR-M satellites provide combat capability for military applications such as Joint Direct Attack Munitions and handheld, vehicle-based and aircraft navigation aids. Civilian applications include ATMs, bank and stock market transactions and power grid management. Currently, 31 of the 34 GPS satellites in orbit transmit navigation and timing signals to users.

A Delta II launch vehicle carried GPS IIR-20(M) into low-Earth orbit. From there, a booster will lift the satellite into its operational orbit approximately 12,500 miles above the Earth.

The launch was delayed from June 2008 due to a fault in the 40-second timer that triggers separation of the third-stage booster from the satellite. Air Force and contractor engineers resolved the problems, said Lt. Col. John Wagner, mission director for the Launch and Range Systems Wing at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif.
The IIR-M spacecraft includes several upgrades from the earlier Block IIR model. A modernized antenna panel provides a stronger signal that is more resistant to GPS jamming and stronger encryption for military signals. It also includes two military signals and one civil signal beyond those transmitted by earlier GPS satellites.

Other Air Force Space Command agencies that supported the launch include the 22nd Space Operations Squadron here, the 45th Space Wing at Patrick AFB, Fla., and the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles AFB. Contractor partners included United Launch Alliance, the Aerospace Corporation and Lockheed Martin Corporation.