July 15, 2015 – This week, Colorado’s aerospace industry, alongside the U.S. Air Force Space Command, celebrates 20 years since the Global Positioning System (GPS) was declared at Full Operational Capability (FOC) on July 17, 1995. In the two decades since, GPS technology has been woven into nearly every aspect of human activity, both as a military tool and a day-to-day civilian utility.
“Since 1995, GPS has been the gold standard for global space-based navigation, providing highly reliable and accurate navigation and timing signals to users around the world,” said General John E. Hyten, Commander of the Air Force Space Command.
GPS is operated by the 2nd Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado.
Gen. Hyten talked about the Airmen who make GPS possible in a recent speech. “If you go to Schriever Air Force Base today and you walk into the 2nd Space Operations Squadron, in a little room you’ll find seven Airmen,” Hyten said. “[Their] average age will be about 23 years old. Those Airmen are providing everything that is GPS for the entire world. Everything.”
“So if you’re on a bass boat in the middle of Alabama; if you’re on a golf course in the middle of Scotland; wherever you happen to be using GPS, those seven Airmen, average age 23, are providing those capabilities. That’s pretty amazing,” said Hyten.
Colorado plays another critical role in delivering GPS satellites to space. Every operational GPS mission has been successfully launched and positioned in orbit by Colorado-headquartered United Launch Alliance or the company’s heritage launch vehicles.
Today ULA successfully launched the GPS IIF-10 mission from an Atlas V 401 rocket for the U.S. Air Force at Cape Canaveral. GPS IIF-10, built by Boeing, is one of the next-generation GPS satellites, incorporating various improvements to provide greater accuracy, increased signals, and enhanced performance for users.
“Congratulations to the U.S Air Force and the entire mission team on today’s successful launch of the 10th GPS IIF satellite! In just a few days, on July 17, the Global Positioning System will celebrate the 20th anniversary of GPS achieving fully operational status,” said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Atlas and Delta Programs. “ULA is very proud to play a role in delivering these satellites to orbit, with Atlas and Delta rockets having launched all 58 operational GPS satellites.”
GPS IIF-10 is the 10th in a series of next-generation GPS satellites and will join a worldwide timing and navigation system utilizing 24 satellites in six different planes, with a minimum of four satellites per plane positioned in orbit approximately 11,000 miles above the Earth’s surface. GPS satellites serve and protect the U.S. military by providing navigational assistance for operations on land, at sea, and in the air.
Civilian users around the world also use and depend on GPS for highly accurate time, location, and velocity information.
“ULA is proud to play such a pivotal a role in the past, present, and future of GPS innovation here in Colorado,” said Tory Bruno, president and CEO of United Launch Alliance. “We look forward to continuing to provide 100 percent mission success for this integral piece of modern technology in the years to come.”
This Friday, July 17, Governor Hickenlooper will declare “GPS Day” in Colorado to celebrate the leading role Colorado plays in providing and advancing GPS technology.
“We want to congratulate all of the Colorado aerospace collaborators that are a part of bringing GPS innovation to the citizens of the entire globe,” Gov. Hickenlooper said. “Proclaiming this day “GPS Day” in Colorado is a fitting opportunity to shine a significant spotlight on our state’s critical role in satellite and geospatial technologies.”
Colorado companies are leading the charge in bringing current and future GPS assets to life. GPS III, the most powerful GPS satellite ever developed, is now being designed and built at Lockheed Martin’s advanced satellite manufacturing facility in Littleton, while Raytheon in Aurora is developing the command and control capabilities for the new GPS III family of satellites. Companies such as Boeing, Harris Corporation, Braxton Technologies, and Infinity Systems Engineering also support GPS development and operations from locations in Colorado.
Leading space projects, such as these GPS efforts, have contributed close to 163,000 space-related jobs in the state, which is also home to more than 400 space-related companies. Colorado now ranks first in the nation for the number of private aerospace workers per capita and is also a national hub for geospatial technologies, remote sensing, and satellite-based services. These comprise the largest category of the state’s space economic activity, bringing in $6.3 billion in annual revenue, and experiencing nearly 8 percent annual growth year over year.
“Colorado aerospace companies are at the forefront of space travel, exploration, and research,” said Major General Jay Lindell, Colorado’s aerospace industry champion. “‘GPS Day’ in Colorado amplifies our continuing support for aerospace business and innovation in this state, and this milestone further validates Colorado’s pioneering role in capitalizing on what space exploration can do to change our very society.”
With four billion GPS-enabled devices worldwide — a number expected to double in the next five years — it is estimated that the global GPS market will reach more than $26 billion in value by 2016.
To learn more about Colorado’s aerospace sector, visit the Colorado Space Coalition’s website at :