The U.S. Air Force launched a new Global Positioning Satellite into orbit aboard a Boeing Co Delta 2 rocket. Lift off happened on Sunday, 21st Dec, at 3:05 a.m. EST from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. A delay caused by a faulty fuel sensor nearly pushed the countdown beyond the close of its 15-minute launch window.
The $45 million Global Positioning System 2R satellite built by Lockheed Martin will join a constellation of 28 GPS satellites operated by the Air Force. It will replace one of the original GPS satellites launched in 1990, the Air Force said.
The weather was cold for Florida, with temperatures nearing the freezing point, but the Air Force said the cold had no effect on either the rocket or satellite.
The GPS network is used by the military for everything from ground troop movements to missile guidance, but has also found broad consumer appeal. Amateur astronomers use the system to operate computer guided telescopes and lost motorists use it to find the right highway. For sailors, GPS markers have become the primary tool for navigation.
Sunday’s launch was the tenth of 21 Lockheed Martin-built GPS 2R series satellites destined for low-Earth orbit. Four more are scheduled to launch in 2004 as the Air Force continues to replace aging satellites.