A U.S. Air Force GPS will be deployed from a ULA rocket, with a 40% chance for the Atlas V to be scheduled for take-off on February 5, 2016, at 8:38 a.m. EST.
The Atlas V 401 rocket will be launching the GPS IIF-12 satellite from Space Launch Complex-41, inside Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The weather forecast, however, gives only a 40% chance of acceptable launching conditions, the main concern being ground winds and thick clouds. If the launch is successful, it will transport the last of the twelve block IIF satellites for the Global Positioning System of U.S. Air Force.
The first Block II satellite was launched in February 1989 aboard Delta II rocket, which was used to carry out other eight GPS deployments in the years after that. Between 1978-1985 eleven Block I satellites were launched, however Block II represented the first functional model of a Global Positioning System, the other ones being only experimental.
The first Block IIA satellite was the spacecraft with the longest functioning life, reaching more than 25 years of service. It was shut down just recently, on January 25th, in order to accommodate the new spacecraft carried on Friday’s launch.
GPS IIF-12 belongs to the new generation of GPS military satellites and its launch will represent ULA’s first 2016 assignment and the 60th functional GPS to be launched from a ULA or heritage rocket. The system will be used to ensure exact location and navigational data for the U.S. military.
An interesting fact is that each mission is named after a usually recognizable star, important for navigational purposes. Common names include Polaris, Sirius, Arcturus, Vega, Canopus and Altair.
Even though Russia and China possess their own global navigational systems and Europe in general is continuing to work on its Galileo technology, almost all satellite receivers rely heavily upon GPS satellites.
If you are a rocket fan, you should know that there are multiple locations from which the public can witness the launch. The best place for watching the event is the Canaveral National Seashore, north of the Kennedy Space Center, with a $5 admission tax per car.
Opening hours start at 6 a.m. and you can find more information on the Kennedy Space Center website. Other great locations, which are free of charge, include Titusville, Florida, along the Indian River (east side of US Highway 1), the north side of State Road 528, between Merritt Island and Cape Canaveral and Port Canaveral.
Image Source: Spaceflight101