(Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., May 27, 2010) -- Celebrating 50 years of launch for one of the most successful rocket programs in U.S. history, a United Launch Alliance Delta IV successfully launched the Air Force's Global Positioning System IIF SV-1 spacecraft at 11 p.m. EDT today from Space Launch Complex-37. GPS IIF SV-1 marked the 349th launch in the Delta program's 50 year history, which began with its first launch on May 13, 1960.
"We congratulate the Air Force and our mission partners on the successful launch of the first of the new generation of GPS satellites," said Jim Sponnick, vice president, Delta Product Line. "Today's launch comes just one week after the 50th anniversary of the first Delta launch and was the 13th mission success for the newest Delta launch vehicle, the Delta IV. The partnership between the Air Force and the Delta team has resulted in the successful launches of many national security missions directly supporting our troops on the battlefield. Launching the first of the next generation of GPS satellites is a great way to start our next 50 years."
GPS IIF SV-1 is the first in a series of next generation GPS satellites, and following its nearly three hour, 33 minute flight, it joined a worldwide timing and navigation system utilizing 24 satellites, in six different planes, with a minimum of four satellites per plane, positioned in orbit approximately 11,000 miles above the Earth's surface.
During the past five decades, the Delta family of expendable launch vehicles has achieved one of the most successful flight records of any rocket currently in use, with a success rate of 95.7 percent. The Delta II, since its first launch in February 1989 has an incredible 98.6 percent success rate. The December 2009 launch of the NASA WISE mission was the 92nd consecutive successful launch with the Delta II system. The Delta IV, making its debut in November 2002, continues this legacy with 100 percent mission success for its 13 missions in the last eight years.
"Our ULA team is proud of the Delta success record and the contributions it has made to scientific exploration, national defense, and economic prosperity," Sponnick said. "Delta has been so successful for the last 50 years because of tremendous support from our government mission partners as well as our outstanding suppliers and commercial customers."
Delta launched some of America's most famous and successful missions. NASA's Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, along with the Phoenix Mars Lander, were launched by Delta. Additionally, NASA missions such as Mars Odyssey, Messenger, Dawn, GLAST and THEMIS all began their journeys on a Delta. Numerous national defense missions, the recent GOES series of weather satellites and all current operational GPS satellites on orbit were launch by Delta.
ULA's next launch is the U.S. Air Force Advanced Extremely High Frequency-1 (AEHF-1) mission scheduled for July 30, aboard an Atlas V from Space Launch Complex-41 here.
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