June 15, 2016 – Raytheon’s newest payload, a technology package that improves the availability and accuracy of Global Positioning System signals for aviation, has launched into orbit for its 12-year mission.
The Raytheon-developed system is a key element of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Wide Area Augmentation System, which offers commercial airline and general aviation pilots more direct flight paths, greater runway capability, precision approaches to airports and remote landing sites without dependence on local ground-based landing systems.
“Extremely accurate navigation technologies make this system a critical resource to keep our national airspace safe,” said Dave Wajsgras, president of Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services. “The launch is a real milestone, as Raytheon and the FAA work to improve the safety and efficiency of air travel.”
WAAS covers nearly all the national airspace, significantly improving GPS accuracy from 10 meters to about two meters.
As the original developer of the WAAS system, Raytheon has partnered with the FAA to continually improve its service area, availability and reliability. The newest payload, WAAS GEO 5, replaces a current payload reaching the end of its service life. Following orbit raising, ground system integration and testing tasks, the WAAS GEO 5 payload will enter its 10-year service phase in 2018.
The WAAS GEO 5 payload is hosted on the geostationary satellite EUTELSAT 117 West B. The satellite was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle on June 15. The launch was managed by RGNext, a joint venture of Raytheon and General Dynamics’ information technology business.
The FAA maintains three WAAS satellite payloads at all times. The agency also awarded Raytheon a contract to replace an additional WAAS GEO payload, which will be launched in the second quarter of 2017. The GEO 6 system will enter its 10-year operational phase in 2019.