US: On Friday morning, the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket blasted off at its scheduled time with a military satellite in tow and quickly disappeared into space. The Atlas V was carrying with it the last in the 12-satellite IIF series meant to upgrade the GPS system launched by the U.S. Air Force over the last 27 years.
Lt. Col. Tom Ste. Marie of the 45th Space Wing said modernizing the satellites is a constant endeavor that many don’t realize must be done to enhance their everyday lives beyond obvious navigation work. For instance, farming implements must communicate with the satellites to follow customized fertilizer patterns. Banks contact satellites when customers use ATMs.
The satellite brings into space upgraded coding that could provide additional capabilities for military and non-military applications. “It is so embedded in the mainstream that many think it’s an app on your phone but it’s a GPS satellite,” he said. “A lot of folks don’t know about the timing and time transfer involved.”
Ste. Marie watched the launch from across the Banana River on the Space Coast, alongside photographers and reporters who felt the low rumble that follows rocket launches. The IIF series started launching in 2010 and marked the first Cape Canaveral launch of the year for the United Launch Alliance, a Boeing-Lockheed Martin partnership.
Alliance officials have said that 2016 will be marked with cargo rather than satellite launches before a return to satellites next year. Friday’s launch will eventually help consumer products and military products improve. “It’s the next generation,” Ste. Marie said. “They are just so much more accurate now.”
Source: Orlando Sentinel