New on the Block

Preparations are proceeding on track for the May 20 launch of the first Global Positioning System Block IIF satellite, Col. Dave Madden, GPS Wing commander, told reporters during a Wednesday teleconference. This Boeing-built satellite currently is set to go into space shortly before midnight East Coast time that day aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket fired from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. The spacecraft features improved atomic clocks, a more robust and higher power military signal—first included on GPS Block IIR-M satellites—and a new L5 civil signal for aviation safety of flight. Madden said it will reside in slot two of the GPS constellation’s B plane. Once operational—expected within about 90 days of launch—the Air Force will reposition the satellite currently in that slot, thereby spreading out the constellation to improve global coverage, including for troops in Afghanistan, he said.