February 13, 2016 – The 50th Space Wing accepted satellite control authority of the final Global Positioning System GPS IIF satellite from the GPS Directorate during a ceremony held February 12 at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado.
Following its launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on February 5, operators from the 50th and 310th Space Wings completed an extensive checkout of the satellite before placing it into its assigned orbital slot in the GPS constellation.
Operated by Air Force Space Command, the GPS constellation provides precise positioning, navigation and timing services worldwide 24-hours a day, seven days a week as a free utility to the world.
Col. Steve Whitney, Space and Missile Systems Center’s director of the GPS Directorate, responsible for the acquisition of GPS satellites, started the ceremony by transferring satellite control authority of GPS IIF-12, as Space Vehicle Number 70, to the 14th Air Force.
“The addition of the final GPS IIF satellite to the constellation is a colossal triumph, as GPS IIF capabilities are crucial to modernizing the GPS constellation. On-going modernization efforts provide the constellation with improved timing, additional civil signals and increased protection,” said Whitney. “GPS continues to be the ‘Gold Standard,’ providing precise positioning, navigation, and timing services to users around the globe.”
“This launch of the last Block IIF GPS satellite marks a significant milestone for the program, which continues unprecedented support to our military forces and the general public,” said Lt. Gen. David J. Buck, 14th Air Force commander and commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Space, U.S. Strategic Command. “The capabilities enabled by the position, navigation and timing signals of the GPS constellation are ingrained into the fabric of our daily lives. From paying at the gas pump, to ATM withdrawals and precision farming; international banking or international shipping, GPS enables the modern way of life,” said Buck. “It is also a critical component of delivering precise combat power in support of joint and coalition warfighter objectives, and I am pleased to make the constellation more robust and resilient than ever, ensuring we can continue to support America’s warfighters well into the future.”
Buck’s comments were echoed by those who are now entrusted with the care and operation of the satellite.
“It’s always a pleasure to transfer satellite control authority to the operators who will deliver those combat effects to the field,” said Col. DeAnna M. Burt, 50th Space Wing commander. “GPS is always a little bit different thanks to the billions of civilian users who also engage this global utility.”
Daily operation of the satellite is delegated to the 2nd Space Operations Squadron. GPS IIF satellites provide improved signal capabilities and increased user accuracy for military and civil users.
“We take great pride in commanding and controlling this constellation on a daily basis,” said Lt. Col. Todd Benson, on behalf of the 2nd and 19th Space Operations Squadrons. “This satellite is the last in a demanding schedule of IIF satellite launches; the units have teamed together to support six launches in just 18 months.”
GPS IIF-12 (SVN-70) will replace the legacy SVN-41, which will be moved to another location and provide auxiliary support to the GPS constellation. The oldest GPS satellite in the constellation, SVN-23, has been removed from the broadcast almanac to make room for GPS IIF-12. Launched November 26, 1990, SVN-23 was decommissioned after 25 years of service prior to the launch of GPS IIF-12.
“GPS IIF-12 marks the 12th satellite launched in under six years, between May 2010 and February 2016, and the seventh in the last 21 months,” stated Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, Space and Missile Systems Center commander and Air Force program executive officer for space. “This incredible track record is the result of the remarkable relationship between SMC, our operators within the 14th Air Force and our ULA/Boeing industry partners. Their continued tenacity and dedication to mission success ensures we continue to maintain a robust satellite constellation with modernized, more resilient GPS capabilities.”
Air Force Space Command’s Space and Missile Systems Center, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California, is the U.S. Air Force’s center for acquiring and developing military space systems. Its portfolio includes GPS, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control networks, space-based infrared systems and space situational awareness capabilities.