US: Boeing has announced that the first of 12 GPS IIF satellites the company is building for the US Air Force is operational now. GPS IIF-1 is the newest member of the active 31-satellite GPS constellation, which provides accurate navigation, positioning and timing information to more than 1 billion military and civilian users around the world.
GPS IIF satellites offer new and enhanced capabilities, including a jam-resistant military signal, greater accuracy through improved atomic clock technology and a protected civilian L5 signal to aid commercial aviation and safety-of-life applications.
Launched on May 27, 2010, GPS IIF-1 has undergone three months of comprehensive on-orbit testing to validate its operations with the ground control system, other GPS satellites and a wide range of military and commercial GPS ground receivers. The satellite’s testing regimen was longer and more rigorous than usual because it is the first of the series.
A Boeing space vehicle operations team based in Colorado helped the GPS Wing monitor and evaluate test results as GPS IIF-1 went through many of its first on-orbit operations. With testing complete, the GPS Wing has officially transferred Satellite Control Authority to the Air Force 50th Space Wing and the 2nd Space Operations Squadron, which will operate the satellite on its mission.
“Boeing has built 40 of the 61 GPS satellites launched since 1978, and GPS IIF is a great addition to that long legacy. These satellites make a difference by adding new levels of power and precision to GPS services. The IIF series will be the backbone of the constellation for the next 12 to 15 years,” said Craig Cooning, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems.
Boeing is producing the next 11 GPS IIF satellites using an innovative pulse-line manufacturing approach adapted from the company’s aircraft and helicopter assembly lines.
The line enables faster, more efficient development of several satellites at once. The company also developed the current GPS ground control infrastructure, called the Operational Control Segment (OCS), which has supported an expanding set of GPS services and capabilities since 2007.