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Default GPS IIF-3, Delta IV M+(4,2), October 4, 2012
by Galactic Penguin SST 10-03-2012, 10:49 AM

The United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket will launch the GPS IIF-3 satellite into orbit. The third of the new II-F series of satellites for the US Air Force's Global Positioning System (and the 63rd GPS satellite to reach the launch pad), it will occupy the Plane A, Slot 6 location of the navigation network, which is divided into six orbital groupings with multiple satellites flying in each. The craft will take over the position held by the GPS 2A-15 satellite, which was launched by a Delta 2 rocket from Cape Canaveral more than 20 years ago (on September 9, 1992).

The new GPS II-F series contains upgrades such as greater accuracy, better jam-resistance and a new civilian aviation signal. The first GPS block IIF satellite was launched in May 2010.

Launch date:
October 4, 2012
Window open:
12:10 UTC / 8:10 a.m. EDT
Window close:
12:29 UTC / 8:29 a.m. EDT
Launch site:
SLC-37B, CCAFS, Florida
L*Click here to restart the timer*

This launch is the first launch of a new GPS satellite in 13 months, a period that hasn't be smooth for the GPS system. Quite a few satellites in the system has been active for almost twenty years, leading to the US GAO issuing a warning about the reliability of the system decreasing due to delays in the next-generation satellites some time ago. Therefore this launch will be quite important for military and civilian users! The new breed of satellite that features improved accuracy, enhanced internal atomic clocks, better anti-jam resistance, a civil signal for commercial aviation, a longer design life and reprogrammable onboard processors to evolve with future needs.

There is an O-F Calendar event created for this launch. And here you can request a reminder for it.



Viewing the Launch Live:
A live simulcast of the TV broadcast will be available at 7:50 a.m. EDT / 11:50 UTC on launch day on the ULA Web site.The broadcast *Click here to restart the timer* minutes*Click here to restart the timer*


Mission Description:
This launch supports the United States Air Force's Global Positioning System (GPS), which is also available to civilian users. The new satellite will occupy the Plane A, Slot 6 location of the navigation network, replacing the GPS-2A-15 satellite in that slot. The old satellite (launched September 1992!) will be decommissioned.

Mission Insignia (clickable)
 



Launch Vehicle:
The Delta IV Medium + (4,2) model is comprised of a common booster core (CBC), two additional GEM-60 solid rocket boosters (SRB) to augment the first-stage CBC, a cryogenic upper stage, and 4-m-diameter payload fairing (PLF).
The Delta 4 CBC design is optimized for balanced performance over a wide range of payloads using the high-performance RS-68 main engine powered by liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid oxygen (LO2). The RS-68 is throttleable to serve various mission profiles operating at 102% and 58% thrust level. Two separate 5-m-dia. LO2 and LH2 tanks provide the majority of the first stage structure. These two tanks are integrated wih a composite cylinder, called the centerbody. At the forward end of the CBC, another composite cylinder, the interstage, provides the interface between the CBC and the cryogenic second stage.
At the aft end of the CBC, an engine section provides the thrust structure and thermal shield that integrates the RS-68 main engine to the CBC. The RS-68 requirements were balanced to enable operational thrust at lower chamber pressures. This design trade increase engine reliability, while reducing complexity. Compared with the SSME, the RS-68 has an 80% reduction in unique part count. Even with lower performance than comparable LO2/LH2 engines, the RS-68 develops a world record 2949 kN (663000 lb) of sea-level thrust with a specific impulse (Isp) of 359 seconds at sea level.
The second stage comprises a 4-m-diameter fuel tank, a composite intertank structure, a liquid oxygen tank, avionics equipment shelf, avionics suite, attitude control system and is powered by a Pratt & Whitney RL10B-2 liquid rocket engine that produces 100kN (24750 lb.) of thrust. The RL10B-2, with its high expansion, carbon-carbon nozzle provides an Isp of 465.5 seconds.
Links:
Launch Updates:

Last edited by Galactic Penguin SST; 10-03-2012 at 10:53 AM.
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Old 10-03-2012, 10:56 AM   #2
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Photos Photos of GPS IIF-3 being encapsuled

















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Old 10-04-2012, 11:47 AM   #3
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Note that live broadcast will start in 5 minutes!

Weather looks great for breakfast, umm launch at the Cape.
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Old 10-04-2012, 12:18 PM   #4
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Launched right on time. Currently into the first burn of the upper stage.
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Old 10-04-2012, 12:39 PM   #5
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The first two burns of the upper stage worked as planned. Spacecraft separation is expected at 15:43 UTC.
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Old 10-04-2012, 12:45 PM   #6
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I had bad memories of the Delta IV launch earlier this year when they showed some of those cameras. Luckily, everything's going well with this one.
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Old 10-04-2012, 01:17 PM   #7
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You Tube

For those who missed the launch:

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Old 10-04-2012, 04:06 PM   #8
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Too bad they cut these videos short. The real fun begins after MECO.
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Old 10-04-2012, 04:42 PM   #9
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Very nice !

The Delta IV (4,2) is the most beautiful of the family, IMHO. The Delta IV-H is cool but looks, huh, heavy ! That one looks thin and balanced.
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Old 10-04-2012, 04:59 PM   #10
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There were some rumors of something fishy going on with the upper stage, so I'm glad that mission success has been confirmed!

Quote:
United Launch Alliance Delta IV Rocket Successfully Launches Global Positioning System Satellite for the U.S. Air Force



Launch Marks 65th Successful ULA Launch in Less than Six Years




Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., (Oct. 4, 2012) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF-3 payload for the United States Air Force lifted off from Space Launch Complex-37 here at 8:10 a.m. EDT today. This launch marks the 9th ULA launch this year, the 54th Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) mission, and the 65th launch since ULA was formed nearly six years ago.

“Congratulations to the entire team on today’s successful launch of the GPS IIF-3 satellite,” said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Mission Operations. “ULA and our mission partners have a rich heritage with the GPS program and we are proud to have served alongside the government and contractor teams over the last two decades to provide important Global Positioning System capabilities for our national defense and for millions of civilian and commercial users around the world."

This mission was launched aboard a Delta IV Medium-plus configuration vehicle using a ULA single common booster core powered by a Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RS-68 main engine, along with two Alliant Techsystems GEM 60 solid rocket motors. The payload was encapsulated by a composite payload fairing and powered by the four-meter diameter upper stage using the PWR RL10B-2 engine. The GPS IIF-3 launch marked the ninth flight of the Delta IV medium+ (4,2) configuration and the 21st flight of the Delta IV family of launch vehicles.
“We are honored to be the primary launch provider for our nation. Reliability, quality, and on-time performance are ULA’s hallmarks,” said Sponnick. “Our nation’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines rely on our performance in accurately placing our customer’s critical payloads in their required orbits.”

GPS IIF-3 is the third 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 earths’ surface. The GPS IIF series provides improved accuracy and enhanced performance for GPS users.

The EELV program was established by the United States Air Force United States Air Force to provide assured access to space for Department of Defense and other government payloads. The commercially developed EELV Program supports the full range of government mission requirements, while delivering on schedule and providing significant cost savings over the heritage launch systems.

ULA's next launch is the Atlas V OTV-3 mission for the Air Force scheduled October 25 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

ULA program management, engineering, test, and mission support functions are headquartered in Denver, Colo. Manufacturing, assembly and integration operations are located at Decatur, Ala., and Harlingen, Texas. Launch operations are located at Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., and Vandenberg AFB, Calif.
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Old 10-04-2012, 05:52 PM   #11
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This article said that the first two RL-10 burns of the upper stage were 40 and 30 seconds longer than planned - probably an indicator of slight under-performance, but it looks like the shortfall was within the stage's margins to deal with.

(strangely, the Russians seems to have a similar problem with the Soyuz's third stage during the launch of MetOp-B last month)
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Old 10-04-2012, 10:17 PM   #12
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Photos

A couple of photos from the launch from United Launch Alliance:









Spaceflight Now:
Florida Today: Delta IV delivers the GPS goods
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Old 10-06-2012, 03:25 AM   #13
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Exclamation RL-10 thrust issue!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Galactic Penguin SST View Post
 This article said that the first two RL-10 burns of the upper stage were 40 and 30 seconds longer than planned - probably an indicator of slight under-performance, but it looks like the shortfall was within the stage's margins to deal with.

(strangely, the Russians seems to have a similar problem with the Soyuz's third stage during the launch of MetOp-B last month)
And now ULA confirms that the RL-10 engine's thrust was lower than planned. (My record shows that the first two burns were ~30 and ~40 seconds longer than planned) The issue is being investigated ahead of the next use of the RL-10 (Atlas V launch with the X-37B on October 25).

Quote:
United Launch Alliance Provides Update to Global Positioning System Launch

Centennial, Colo., (Oct. 5, 2012) – ULA successfully launched and deployed the GPS IIF-3 satellite in a precise orbit Thursday, but during the launch, observed an unexpected data signature with the upper stage engine throughout a portion of the flight. The Delta IV’s robust system design, flight software, vehicle margins and propellant reserves enabled the successful outcome for this mission.
The unexpected signature was seen during second stage performance as evidenced by a reduced thrust level of the RL10 engine. The onboard inertial guidance and flight control systems compensated for the lower thrust conditions and the Delta second stage delivered the satellite to the proper orbit.
Per standard processes when a flight data item such as this has been identified, ULA and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne have formed a robust investigation team with oversight from major customers. The investigation will thoroughly assess all flight and operational data to determine direct and root causes, and identify/implement appropriate corrective action prior to future flights.
“Though the GPS IIF-3 mission was a complete success, ULA fully understands the challenges of launch and will thoroughly investigate and implement appropriate actions to reliably deliver our customer’s critical capabilities to the orbital positions required,” said Jim Sponnick, ULA’s vice president of Missions Operations.
ULA’s next launch is the Atlas V OTV mission for the Air Force, which utilizes a different model RL10 engine. A thorough review and understanding of this issue will be completed prior to certifying the OTV mission for launch.
ULA program management, engineering, test, and mission support functions are headquartered in Denver, Colo. Manufacturing, assembly and integration operations are located at Decatur, Ala., and Harlingen, Texas. Launch operations are located at Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., and Vandenberg AFB, Calif.
For more information on ULA, visit the ULA Web site at www.ulalaunch.com, or call the ULA Launch Hotline at 1-877-ULA-4321 (852-4321). Join the conversation at www.facebook.com/ulalaunch and twitter.com/ulalaunch.
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Old 10-08-2012, 01:46 PM   #14
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Videos Launch Highlights

United Launch Alliance:
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Old 10-12-2012, 02:53 PM   #15
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USAF: Gen. Shelton convenes accident investigation

Aviation Week: U.S. Air Force Probing Glitch With Launch Of GPS Satellite:
Quote:
The U.S. Air Force on Thursday launched an investigation into a glitch with the flight of an unmanned Delta 4 rocket that carried a GPS navigational satellite into orbit last week.

The Global Positioning System 2F spacecraft reached its intended orbit despite a problem with the rocket’s upper-stage engine, which is built by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a unit of United Technologies Corp that is being sold to GenCorp .

Future flights of the Delta 4 rocket are on hold, pending results of the investigation, the Air Force said. The Delta 4 rocket is built by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp.

General William Shelton, who heads Air Force Space Command, said the Air Force planned a rigorous investigation to determine the root cause of the anomaly with the upper-stage engine.

{...}
Space News: Shelton Orders Investigation of Delta 4 Anomaly

Parabolic Arc: Air Force Orders Investigation into Delta IV Upper Stage Anomaly
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