Atlas 5 receives payload for third launch this month

File photo. Credit: ULA
File photo. Credit: ULA

CAPE CANAVERAL — Heading to space next week to replace a 12-year-old satellite in the Global Positioning System navigation network, a modernized spacecraft was placed atop its Atlas 5 launcher yesterday.

That completes assembly of the 189-foot-tall United Launch Alliance rocket at Cape Canaveral for liftoff of the GPS 2F-11 craft.

Launch on Oct. 30 will be possible between 12:17 and 12:36 p.m. EDT (1617-1636 GMT) to reach the correct location within the GPS constellation.

The new satellite will take the place of the GPS 2R-10 craft launched aboard Delta 302 on Dec. 21, 2003 into Plane E, Slot 2 of the constellation. The old craft moves to a backup role in the network once the fresh GPS 2F-11 enters service.

The satellite was flown to Florida on June 8 from Boeing’s manufacturing facility in El Segundo, California. After arriving, it was taken to the Cape’s Area 59 were GPS spacecraft undergo their pre-flight preps.

Final testing, loading of hydrazine maneuvering propellant and encapsulation in the rocket’s nose cone was accomplished with the satellite.

Then, a convoy hauled the 3,400-pound satellite north through Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to United Launch Alliance’s Vertical Integration Facility where the Atlas had been stacked beginning Oct. 12.

Already shrouded in the launcher’s 39-foot-tall, 14-foot-diameter aluminum nose cone, the spacecraft was hoisted atop the Centaur upper stage for attachment.

This will be the 11th Block 2F satellite sent into the GPS network since 2010. Boeing in building a dozen spacecraft of this kind featuring greater accuracy, more signals, better anti-jamming and longer design lives than previous models.

For Atlas 5, it is the rocket’s third launch this month. It follows a commercial flight Oct. 2 and a national security mission Oct. 8.

See earlier GPS 2F-11 coverage.

Our Atlas archive.