U.S. Air Force Successfully Launches New GPS Satellites Via Atlas V Rocket
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida this Wednesday, July 15, where it propelled and transported the new Global Positioning System navigation satellites into lower Earth orbit.
This week also celebrates the 20th anniversary of the GPS which was made possible by the U.S. Air Force when the first satellites were launched in July 17, 1995 — making GPS technology omnipresent in military and civilian life, as reported by the Denver Post.
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The Atlas V rocket, which measures 189 feet tall, went into ignition with a fiery blast at 11:36 A.M. EDT, propelling the rocket from the launch pad of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
According to the U.S. Air Force, this launch is clearly a testament of the success and teamwork of the government and industry partners who are both committed to the project's success, says Space and Missile Systems Center commander, Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves.
The Russian-made RD-180 booster generated some 860,200 pounds of sheer power and thrust that launched the rocket into the lower atmosphere where it ended with a trail of fiery exhaust across a partly cloudy sky. our minutes into the launch, the engine shut down after liftoff where its first stage broke away a few seconds later as programmed.
After two planned burns, the Atlas V's powerful engine, the Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C-1, shut down 13 minutes later when it reached a preliminary parking orbit. The second firing occurred after three hours and 17 minutes after the launch where it placed the GPS 2F-10 satellite at 12,700 miles high into orbit, making it operational.
To date, the GPS uses 24 satellites that are located in six orbital planes that these are crucial for broadcasting precise timing signals with its atomic clock onboard to provide worldwide location data. At any point on the planet, there are four satellites hovering on the horizon that can allow GPS tracking to calculate the user's position and altitude including velocity from a few feet to a fraction of a mile for every hour.
This GPS 2F-10 launch is also the 70th satellite launch since 1978 where it has been the 55th successful launch for ULA's Atlas 5 rocket. The older satellites will now serve as on-orbit backup.
On July 22, another launch is set for United Launch Alliance; the space company is set to launch a Delta IV Medium rocket carrying the seventh Wideband Global SATCOM spacecraft, reveals the Spaceflight Insider.