By Staff Sgt. Stacy Foster
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
The final Lockheed Martin-built, GPS block IIR spacecraft was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. Aug. 17, completing the series of block IIR and IIR-M satellites and raising the total on-orbit count to 20.
The block IIR spacecraft began flying in July 1997 to replenish the network and replace older generations of GPS satellites.
Lt. Col. Deanna Burt, 2nd Space Operations Squadron commander, said the final eight craft were modernized to transmit additional signals and provide improvements aimed at greater accuracy, tougher resistance to interference and enhanced performance.
The GPS satellite program at Schriever is a collaborative effort between the active duty 2nd SOPS and the Air Force Reserve’s 19th Space Operations Squadron.
“We have a great symbiotic total force relationship with 2nd SOPS. We have a divide and conquer mentality toward our workload,” said Lt. Col. Traci Kueker-Murphy, 19th SOPS commander. “The reservists specialize in launch and modernization of GPS and augment 2nd SOPS, while 2nd SOPS is able to focus on day-to-day operations that deliver combat effects to the warfighter.”
The next phase in the program for both squadrons will be the transition to the Boeing-built, enhanced GPS block IIF satellites, expected to begin launching in 2010.
Eventually, the GPS will move to a block III spacecraft, which will provide even more capability to both military and civilian users of the constellation.
“The block III satellites will bring increased accuracy, anti-jamming power, signal integrity, search and rescue capability and much more,” said Colonel Burt.
As one era comes to an end, a new one begins within the entire GPS community.
“Lockheed Martin, Global Positioning Systems Wing, 2nd SOPS and 19th SOPS have done an outstanding job continuing to improve GPS capabilities,” said Colonel Burt. “We look forward to the next block of satellites to continue to improve upon the stellar performance of the IIAs, IIRs and IIR-Ms currently in the constellation.”