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GPS IIF-5 satellite to launch February 21st

Article by: Mike Barrett
Date: 13 Feb 2014

The next GPS Satellite to be added to the constellation is sitting on top of a Delta IV rocket waiting to be launched early next Friday morning. GPS IIF-5 is scheduled to lift off sometime between 1:40 and 1:59am on the 21st February from Launch Complex 37B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

This will be the return to flight for this configuration of the Delta IV after a problem with the second stage of the GPS IIF-3 mission on the Delta IV rocket. Read about the GPS IIF-3 mission here. Back in October 2012 there was a thrust problem with the upper stage and the engineers had to create a longer than planned burn to compensate. The GPS Satellite was placed in the correct orbit and is now functioning add part of the GPS constellation.

After the issue the Delta IV fleet was grounded whilst investigations into the issue took place. The launch of GPS IIF-5 was due to take place in October last year, but has been rescheduled a number of times whilst further analysis into the problems took place. The investigation team concluded that there was a small fuel leak that happened during the first burn of the upper stage, and a number of procedures have been instigated to overcome any possible reoccurrence.

Since the launch of GPS IIF-3 its sister satellite GPS IIF-4 was launched on an Atlas V rocket. This provided the capability to launch the GPS satellites on both series of Expendable Launch Vehicles.

The GPS IIF-5 mission will start about 6 hours 45 minutes before the launch when the countdown will officially start. The rocket burns liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen which take over 4 hours to load into the onboard tanks. After a series of tests the terminal countdown starts culminating in the ignition of the main rocket engine. After the main engine is confirmed to be burning correctly the strap-on solid rocket boosters ate lit and the rocket will blast into the night skies.

The launch part of the GPS mission lasts just over 3.5 hours, at which point the GPS IIF-5 satellite will be placed into the correct orbit. Once in orbit the spacecraft will undergo a series of test and calibration before finally being incorporated into the GPS constellation.

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