ULA Launches 50th Atlas V Mission

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the Air Force's eighth Block IIF navigation satellite for the Global Positioning System (GPS) lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on October 29, 2014. Image Credit: John Studwell

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the Air Force’s eighth Block IIF navigation satellite for the Global Positioning System (GPS) lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on October 29, 2014. Image Credit: John Studwell

October 29, 2014 – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket has successfully launched the Air Force’s eighth Block IIF navigation satellite for the Global Positioning System (GPS) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This is ULA’s 12th launch in 2014, and the 89th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

“ULA is honored to work with this world-class U.S. government and contractor mission team, and we are very proud to have delivered the GPS IIF-8 satellite to orbit today on the 50th Atlas V mission,” said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Atlas and Delta Programs. “Achieving 50 Atlas missions with 100 percent mission success is a tribute to this team’s sustained focus on one mission at a time and dedication to reliably meeting our customer’s launch needs.”

GPS is a space-based, world-wide navigation system providing users with highly accurate, three-dimensional position, velocity and timing information 24 hours a day in all weather conditions. GPS satellites also provide navigational assistance for U.S. military operations on land, at sea, and in the air.

GPS utilizes 24 satellites, in six different planes, with a minimum of four satellites per plane. The satellites are positioned in orbit approximately 11,000 miles above the Earth’s surface and continuously transmit radio signals pertaining to the exact time (using atomic clocks) and exact location of the satellites. With the proper equipment, users can receive these signals to calculate time, location, and velocity. Receivers have been developed for use in aircraft, ships, land vehicles and to hand-carry.

GPS IIF-8 is the eighth in a series of next generation GPS satellites, incorporating various improvements to provide greater accuracy, increased signals, and enhanced performance for users. The GPS IIF series have a design life of 12 years. The signals are so accurate that time can be measured to within a millionth of a second, velocity within a fraction of a mile per hour, and location to within feet.

The GPS IIF-8 mission was launched aboard an Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) 401 configuration vehicle, which includes a 4-meter diameter payload fairing. The Atlas booster for the mission was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine, and the Centaur upper stage was powered by a single Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10A engine.

ULA’s next launch is the Delta IV Heavy Exploration Flight Test (EFT-1) mission of NASA’s Orion spacecraft for Lockheed Martin scheduled for December 4 from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.