CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION – The first launch of 2016 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, is poised for blastoff on Friday, Feb. 5, and features a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying a US Air Force payload that will fortify the GPS constellation of navigation satellites that is critically important to military and civilian users on a 24/7 basis.
The commercial Atlas V rocket was rolled out to Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida this morning, Thursday, Feb. 4. The USAF Global Positioning System GPS IIF-12 satellite is encapsulated in the 4 meter diameter nosecone.
Liftoff of ULA’s workhorse Atlas V rocket from the seaside pad 41 is slated for 8:38 a.m. EST, at the opening of a 19-minute long launch window.
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Scores of spectators from across the country are gathering to witness this maiden Cape launch of 2016, as most local hotels have sold out.
You can also watch a live webcast of the Feb. 5 launch via ULA’s website here: http://www.ulalaunch.com/webcast.aspx
The live broadcast will begin at 8:18 a.m. EST and features informative commentary all about the Atlas V rocket and the importance and uses of the GPS constellation of satellites.
In case any last minute weather or technical issues arise, ULA can still launch the rocket until the window closes at 8:57 a.m. EST.
The current weather forecast shows a 40% chance of favorable weather conditions at launch time. The primary concerns are for thick clouds and high ground level winds.
Heavy rains are currently rolling through the Florida space coast area on Thursday afternoon and evening.
In case of a scrub, the next launch opportunity is Saturday.
The GPS IIF-12 satellite is the last of the current generation GPS satellites,” incorporating various improvements to provide greater accuracy, increased signals, and enhanced performance for users.”
“GPS satellites serve and protect our warfighters by providing navigational assistance for U.S. military operations on land, at sea, and in the air. Civilian users around the world also use and depend on GPS for highly accurate time, location, and velocity information.”
In one way or another everyone uses and benefits from the GPS satellites on a daily basis around the clock.
The Atlas V rocket will deliver carry the GPS IIF-12 satellite to a semi-synchronous circular orbit.
The GPS constellation is comprised of 24 satellites that orbit the Earth at an altitude of approximately 11,000 nautical miles.
Friday’s launch marks ULA’s first mission of 2016 and the 60th operational GPS mission to launch on a ULA or heritage rocket.
The two stage Atlas V will launch in the 401 configuration. This includes a single engine Centaur upper stage and no solid rocket motors and 4-meter diameter payload fairing.
Starting later in 2017, the Atlas V rocket will power US astronauts back to orbit. They will ascend the newly built crew access tower at pad 41 to board the Boeing-built CST-100 Starliner space taxi bolted atop the Atlas V.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.
Learn more ULA Atlas rocket, SpaceX, Orbital ATK Cygnus, ISS, Boeing, Space Taxis, Mars rovers, Orion, SLS, Antares, NASA missions and more at Ken’s upcoming outreach events:
Feb 1 to 4: “ULA, SpaceX, SLS, Orion, Commercial crew, Curiosity explores Mars, Pluto and more,” Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, evenings