This week will see two rockets launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the first on Thursday October 4th will be a Delta IV carrying the third of the new family of GPS Satellites into space to strengthen both the public and military positioning services. The second launch will see the first of the SpaceX cargo missions to the ISS for NASA featuring the Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft.
The Delta IV launch is scheduled to blast off at 8:10 am EDT (12:10pm GMT) on Thursday from SLC-37B on the Atlantic coast at Cape Canaveral. The rocket will be in the Delta IV Medium+ (4,2) configuration with a single main booster, twin strap-on solid rocket motors, the Delta cryogenic second stage, and a 4 metre diameter, 38.5 foot tall payload fairing. The combined height of the rocket is 206 feet.
Continue reading the rest of the article and to view the GPS satellite preparation images…
The Navstar GPS IIF-3 spacecraft will join the constellation of GPS satellites replacing one of the older GPS satellites that has reached the end of its useful life. The GPS IIF satellites incorporate a number of features to improve the location capabilities of the technology. In particular these spacecraft have double the predicted signal accuracy than existing satellites, a new L5 signal for more reliable civil and commercial aircraft, the ability to be reprogrammed in space, and better resistance to jamming for the military side of the systems.
With the sun rising over Cape Canaveral just after 7am and the launch scheduled for 8:10 the rocket will be heading off east into the rising sun. The entire launch sequence from the ignition of the main engine through to the separation of the second stage takes just over 3 hours. At this point the satellite will be in its operational orbit of 11,047 miles ready for checkout and constellation integration.
The rocket’s trip to the launch pad has involved components from across the USA. The 60 inch diameter Solid Rocket Motors are fabricated by ATK in Bringham City, Utah and transported to Cape Canaveral AFS by road. The main Delta IV booster, Payload Fairing and Second Stage are produced at the ULA site in Decatur, Alabama and delivered to the Cape by ship down the Mississippi River. Pratt & Whitney make the RL-10 and RS-68 rocket engines at their plant in West Palm Beach, Florida and are hauled by road. The GPS satellite was built by Boeing in El Segundo, California and shipped to the east coast aboard a C-17 Globemaster III airlifter.
As the various parts arrived at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station they were checked out prior to assembly. The booster, second stage and engines were delivered to the Horizontal Integration facility a short distance from the launch pad where they were assembled prior to being rolled out to the launch complex and lifted vertical on the launch table. Whilst waiting for the launch the rocket is enshrouded in the Mobile Service Tower protecting it from the ravages of the Floridian weather.
Next to be attached are the Solid Rocket Motors. These are delivered to the launch pad from an inspection hanger and attached to the main booster core. The main rocket is then complete with the exception of the payload.
The payload fairing, and adapter plate were delivered via ship at the same time as the booster and the second stage. These were taken to the ‘white room’ waiting for the assembly with the avionics and the GPS spacecraft. All of this is done in a clean environment to prevent any contamination that could affect the operation of the payload. Once the payload has been assembled it is transported to the launch complex where it is mated to the rocket.
All that remains now are the final checkouts prior to the start of the launch sequence. The countdown for launch begins 14 hours before launch.
The first GPS IIF satellite was launched on May 27, 2010 and entered service on August 26, 2010. The second satellite, which launched on July 16, 2011, entered service on August 22, 2011. “As each IIF satellite becomes operational, we continue the seamless transformation of the GPS constellation into an even more accurate, reliable and durable navigation resource for the U.S. military and the global civilian user community,” said Craig Cooning, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space & Intelligence Systems.
Boeing are contracted to manufacture 12 GPS IIF satellites. This launch will place SVN-65 into the constellation. Of the remaining nine IIFs that Boeing is building for the Air Force, three are complete and in storage, and six are being assembled and tested.
If you are unable to get out to Cape Canaveral to watch the launch in person then ULA will be transmitting live video from their website at www.ulalaunch.com