By Scott Prater
The 2nd Space Operations Squadron accepted satellite control authority of its fourth GPS Block IIF satellite during a ceremony here Friday.
Following its launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., May 15, acquirers from the Space and Missile Systems Center and operators from the 50th and 310th Space Wings first performed an extensive checkout of the spacecraft before placing it into a primary slot in the GPS constellation.
On-orbit checkout took only 19 days, which is the fastest OOC completion and SCA transfer in the history of the GPS Block IIF satellite program.
Col. Bernard Gruber, GPS director at the SMC, started the ceremony by transferring satellite control authority of the vehicle, known as SVN-66, to the 14th Air Force. Col. Todd Brost, 14 AF director of operations and exercises, accepted SCA and transferred it to 50 SW Commander, Col. James Ross.
“Today’s successful transfer of satellite control authority is a shining example of how a strong relationship between our acquisition and operational communities can produce outstanding results,” Ross said. “We have now established a pattern of delivering state-of-the-art satellites on orbit and available to users in record-setting time, this time in a matter of weeks. I am very proud of our 2 SOPS and 19th Space Operations Squadron teams for their hard work.”
Ross immediately delegated command and control of the vehicle to 2 SOPS.
“We continue to be honored and humbled to bring new satellites with new capabilities in to the GPS constellation,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Ste. Marie, 2 SOPS commander. “The partnership between SMC, 19 SOPS and 2 SOPS for launch and initialization only gets stronger each time. My hat is off to the whole team for another extremely smooth and successful campaign.”
The Air Force’s newest GPS satellite was positioned in its final orbital location May 29. It replaces SVN-33, an older Block IIA space vehicle that has served the GPS mission for more than 17 years.
Global Positioning System satellites transmit digital radio signals to receivers on the ground, allowing military and civilian users to calculate their time, location and velocity.
The Block IIF series is the fifth generation of GPS spacecraft and provides improved timing technology, a more jam-resistant military signal and higher powered civilian signal compared to previous models. SVN-66 was designed to operate on orbit for 12 years and includes a reprogrammable processor capable of receiving software uploads.
The new vehicle joins 31 other GPS satellites currently on orbit in operational status. The squadron also maintains four spare GPS vehicles in a residual constellation.
Despite being replaced, SVN-33 is not going away. It is still producing healthy signals and will continue to contribute to GPS missions for the foreseeable future. However, SVN-66 will now be the primary satellite occupying that specific orbital slot.
The fifth GPS Block IIF is slated for launch in October. Ultimately, the Air Force plans to launch 12 Block IIFs and has three launches in the planning stage for 2014.