The U.S. Air Force has authorized International Launch Services (ILS) to proceed with a mission to launch a GPS satellite in early 2007 on a Lockheed Martin Atlas V vehicle. This launch, of a next-generation GPS-IIF series satellite, will take place from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The mission was assigned to ILS in the first round of awards under the Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program.
ILS, a Lockheed Martin joint venture, now has 16 EELV assignments. This is the seventh to be given the go-ahead for launch. The Atlas V vehicle will inject the GPS satellite directly into its operational circular orbit of 20,200 km (10,900 nm) above Earth and inclined 55 degrees to the equator. The GPS constellation consists of 24 operational satellites in six orbital planes to provide worldwide coverage.
Lockheed Martin developed the Atlas V launcher to meet Air Force EELV requirements and for ILS commercial missions. The Atlas V vehicle has flown four times since its debut in 2002 – all successfully and all for commercial customers.
The next mission is planned for March, with a satellite for commercial customer Inmarsat. The first government EELV launch of Atlas V is planned for March 2006.