Boeing GPS satellites circle the Earth at a distance of 11,000 nautical miles. But one of the most important steps they take to reach their on-orbit destination can be measured in single numbers.
The journey begins at the Boeing Satellite Development Center in El Segundo, California, where Boeing is building 12 GPS IIF spacecraft for the U.S. Air Force, the steward of the GPS constellation.
Once assembled, each GPS IIF is loaded into a shipping container and trucked a short distance -- about three miles -- to Los Angeles International Airport, literally across the street from the factory.
The transfer is performed after 6 p.m., when the busy L.A. rush hour traffic has subsided. The convoy moves slowly, even more so when it comes time to slide the container into the C-17 Globemaster III, also built by Boeing for the Air Force.
“It is a tight fit, and must be performed meticulously,” explains Jim Jenkins, GPS IIF Launch Segment Integrated Product Team lead. “The same is true for the unloading process.”
On Feb. 26, a fourth GPS IIF completed the transcontinental trip to the launch site in Florida. GPS IIF-4 is now undergoing pre-launch preparations at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, with liftoff currently planned for the second quarter 2013 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas rocket.
The GPS IIF-4 milestone continues Boeing’s partnership with the Air Force on GPS constellation sustainment and modernization, ensuring the GPS constellation provides precise positioning, navigation and timing services to users around the globe.
[Editor’s Note: The image shown features prior GPS IIF shipments.]