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Space ops unit takes over newest GPS satellite

by Scott Prater
Schriever Air Force Base Public Affairs

11/1/2012 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFNS) -- The 2nd Space Operations Squadron accepted satellite control authority of its third Global Positioning System Block IIF satellite during a ceremony here Oct. 26.

Following its launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., Oct. 4, acquirers from the Space and Missile Systems Center and operators from the 50th and 310th Space Wings first performed a three-week check out of the spacecraft before placing it into a primary slot in the GPS constellation.

Col. Bernard Gruber, GPS director at SMC, initiated the Oct. 26 ceremony by transferring satellite control authority of the vehicle, known as SVN-65, to the 14th Air Force.

"Everything went smoothly following the launch," Gruber said. "This is the third GPS Block IIF that we've placed on orbit and the process seems to get better with each launch. We were able to decrease the timeline for checkout of the vehicle and it's clear we're on the right track for future success."

Col. Todd Brost, 14 AF director of operations and exercises, accepted SCA and transferred it to 50 SW Commander, Col. James Ross.

"Shrinking the checkout timeline is important because it means we can get these satellites available to the users as quickly as possible," Ross said. "This is a great model for the acquisition and operational communities to work together as a team."

Following acceptance of SCA, Ross then delegated command and control of SVN-65 to Lt. Col. Thomas Ste. Marie, 2 SOPS commander.

"I want to thank the full team who executed such a smooth transition from the Space and Missile Systems Center personnel who traveled from California, to the local partnership with our Air Force Reserve teammates in 19 SOPS, to my own team at 2 SOPS," Ste. Marie said. "Launch and initialization is one of those things that can keep a commander up at night, but there were no worries at all. It is this synchronized triple partnership between these organizations that made this SCA possible."

Global Positioning Satellites transmit digital radio signals to receivers on the ground, allowing military and civilian users to calculate their time, location and velocity.

The Block IIF series is the fifth generation of GPS spacecraft and provides improved timing technology, a more jam-resistant military signal and higher powered civilian signal compared to previous models. SVN-65 was designed to operate on orbit for 12 years and includes a reprogrammable processor capable of receiving software uploads.

Lt. Col. Dean Holthaus, 2 SOPS director of operations, had kudos for the Boeing team, who built not only this Block IIF satellite, SVN-65, but also the Block IIA it replaced.

"SVN-65 brings increased capability to the warfighter and replaces an aging satellite in the operational constellation that has served admirably and far surpassed its design life," Holthaus said.

The launch and orbit of SVN-65 was of particular significance for 2 and 19 SOPS members, who dedicated the launch and checkout to former 19 SOPS satellite vehicle operator, Capt. Vivian Elmo, who was killed in a traffic crash during the summer of 2011. Elmo played an integral role in the launch and operation of the first two GPS Block IIFs.

The new vehicle joins 30 other GPS satellites currently on orbit in operational status.

The next GPS Block IIF vehicle launch is slated for May of 2013.

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