GPS 2F-11 (Atlas V)
31 October 2015
Space Launch Complex 41
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket launches a Global Positioning System satellite (GPS 2F-11) into orbit at 12:13 p.m. from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on 31 October 2015. From the ULA press booklet about the launch:

GPS IIF-11 is one of the next generation GPS satellites, incorporating various improvements to provide greater accuracy, increased signals, and enhanced performance for users.

GPS utilizes 24 satellites, in six different planes, with a minimum of four satellites per plane, positioned in orbit approximately 11,000 nautical miles above the Earth's surface. The satellites continuously transmit digital radio signals pertaining to the exact time (using atomic clocks) and exact location of the satellites. The GPS IIF series have a design life of 12 years. With the proper equipment, users can receive these signals to calculate time, location, and velocity. The signals are so accurate that time can be measured to within a millionth of a second, velocity within a fraction of a mile per hour, and location to within feet. Receivers have been developed for use in aircraft, ships, land vehicles, and to hand carry.

As a result of increased civil and commercial use as well as experience in military operations, the USAF has added the following capabilities and technologies to the GPS IIF series to sustain the space and control segments while improving mission performance:

  • Two times greater predicted signal accuracy than heritage satellites.
  • New L5 signals for more robust civil and commercial aviation.
  • An on-orbit, reprogrammable processor, receiving software uploads for improved system operation.
  • Military signal "M-code" and variable power for better resistance to jamming hostile environments, meeting the needs of emerging doctrines of navigation warfare.
One of two Blackhawk helicopters from nearby Patrick Air Force Base perform surveillance duty around the pad.
Note the observer looking out the window.
Timing it just right, the two helicopters passed near the pad moments before liftoff. Note the taller gantry under construction alongside the Launch Umbilical Tower to provide access for astronaut crews to the Boeing Starliner (CST-100) commercial spacecraft soon to be launching people from this pad atop the Atlas V rocket.
The Atlas V breaks the sound barrier.
Mach 1 is reached approximately 78 seconds after launch momentarily enveloping the rocket in water vapor caused by the shockwave.
The rocket disappears into the blue sky on its way into orbit.
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