Recently, the U.S. Air Force and its mission partners successfully launched the 10th Boeing-built Global Positioning System IIF satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
The satellite was launched by a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Upon separation, it was positioned into its mission orbit by a ground-control segment software suite developed by the 517th Software Maintenance Squadron, an Ogden Air Logistics Complex unit located at Peterson AFB, Colorado.
“The Launch and Early Orbit Anomaly Resolution — LADO — software suite is one of the GPS workloads sustained by 30 personnel assigned to the 517th at Peterson,” said Jim Olson, GPS Software Sustainment Project Director. “LADO tracks the telemetry of the rocket and satellite during launch and acquires the vehicle after separation occurs about three hours after launch. LADO is also used to command Sun Safe, the deployment of the solar arrays which occurred about 3.5 hours after the separation.”
The 517th team installed the software — LADO version 2.12.3 — on April 16 at Schriever AFB after several months of preparation.
“The launch preparation efforts and rehearsals are supported by the 517th’s LADO Organizational Level Maintenance team,” Olson said. “Four System Administrators assigned to operations at Schriever support the 2nd and 19th Space Operations Squadrons.”
Led by Kevin Boswell, the 517th team provided 24-hour coverage starting eight hours before the launch and continued to provide 24-hour on-site support until July 17.
Once the launch vehicle was on its way, the team performed Stop Drift Orbital Correction maneuvers for days following the launch to stabilize and maintain the orbit.
“In the best of situations, they will be observers,” Olson said. “If there is hardware, software, or technical issues, they are engaged and have access to our Level 2 team and to our support contractor.”
According to Air Force Space Command, the Boeing-built GPS IIF satellites provide improved signals to support both the warfighter and the growing civilian needs of the global economy. The GPS IIF satellites will provide improved accuracy through advanced atomic clocks, a longer design life than previous GPS satellites, and a new operational third civil signal that benefits commercial aviation and safety-of-life applications. It will also continue to deploy the modernized capabilities that began with the GPS IIR satellites, including a more robust military signal.
Operated by Air Force Space Command, the GPS constellation provides worldwide positioning and navigation support seven days a week, 24 hours a day. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the GPS System achieving full operational capability.