Atlas V 401, IIF-12, RD-180 – successful combination for sure !

Next satellite joined today to GPS constellation after successful flight of Atlas V rocket launched from Complex 41 in Cape Canaveral.

It is last from Block IIF generation GPS navigation satellites designed and manufactured by Boeing. On 31 October 2015 penultimate satellite was launched on atop of Atlas V in same configuration and now we watched how ultimate from number of satellites designed and manufactured by Boeing to meet demands of GPS program. Satellites from Block IIF series were designed to be placed on orbit with altitude of 20,460 km and remain operational for 12 years. IIF were not equipped in Selective Availability system what affected in better accuracy of navigation signal provided for civilian users. Satellites were also equipped in better onboard atomic clock to improve accuracy and good jamming resistance. First satellite from Block IIF was launched on 2010 - everyone from series weight 1630 kg and cost $245 million.  It is worth to mention that contract for next constellation of GPSIII was signed between Department of Defense and Lockheed Martin  in 2008 (worth $1.4 billion) and in 2012 (worth $68 million). These contracts constitute the end of Boeing's participation in GPS satellites after 34 years of cooperation in this program.

Punctually at 13:38 United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifted off from launch site in Complex 41 in Cape Canaveral. Rocket was starting in 401 configuration what means that it was equipped with 4 meter payload fairing, no supporting boosters and with Centaur upper stage equipped with single engine. Rocket is long for 58 m and powered by RD-180 engine mounted in first stage (long for 32.46 m and diameter of 3.81 m) which provided 3.827 kN of thrust. Thanks to powerful propulsion Atlas was able to reach 1 Ma after 78 seconds of flight. After next 4 minutes and twenty seconds RD-180 stopped working and ten seconds later first stage was separated after burning 284.089 kg of RP-1/LOX. Centaur upper stage started its RL-10C-1 engine for almost thirteen minutes to reach parking orbit on altitude of 20000 km. After three hours seventeen minutes later RL-10C-1 started again and give Centaur ability to inject satellite from circular orbit into correct orbital location - with altitude of 20459 km and inclination at 55°. Satellite