Big GPS Gift

Gorgeous day at the Cape last week, punctuated by a spectacular Delta launch for the USAF by the United Launch Alliance:

United Launch Alliance successfully launched a Delta II expendable launch vehicle today from Space Launch Complex 17-A at 3:04 p.m., EST carrying the Air Force’s GPS IIR-18(M) satellite. This launch marks the fifth mission for the Air Force this year and the 13th and final mission for ULA in 2007.

Following a nominal 1 hour and 8 minute flight, the rocket deployed the GPS IIR-18(M) spacecraft, the fifth modernized NAVSTAR Global Positioning System Block II R-M military navigation satellite. GPS is a space-based radio-positioning system nominally consisting of a minimum of 24-satellite constellation that provides navigation and timing information to military and civilian users worldwide.

"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."

Designed to operate for 10 years, GPS satellites orbit the Earth every 12 hours, emitting continuous navigation signals. With the proper equipment, users can receive these signals to calculate time, location and velocity. In addition to its military use, GPS satellites provide directional assistance to civilian users around the world.

The ULA Delta II 7925-9.5 configuration vehicle featured an ULA first stage booster powered by a Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RS-27A main engine and nine Alliant Techsystems (ATK) strap-on solid rocket motors. An Aerojet AJ10-118K engine powered the second stage. A spin-stabilized Star-48B solid-rocket motor built by ATK boosted the third stage. The payload was encased by a 9.5-foot-diameter metallic payload fairing.

ULA began processing the Delta II launch vehicle in Decatur, Ala., nearly two years ago. In August 2007, the first stage arrived at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station from Decatur, followed by the second stage Sept. 19. The vehicle was erected on the stand at Pad 17-A, Nov. 5, with solid rocket motor installation completed by mid-November. Hundreds of ULA technicians, engineers and management worked to prepare the vehicle for the GPS IIR-18(M) mission.


Here’s the video: