Friday, May 16, 2014

Delta rocket launches Air Force GPS navigation satellite

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- A next-generation navigational satellite for the U.S. Air Force received a ride into orbit on Friday during a twilight lift-off from America's Space Coast.

The Global Positioning System IIF-6 satellite will be placed 11,040 nautical miles above in a location where it will operate in synch with twenty-three fellow GPS satellites located in six different orbital planes.

The Air Force expects the Navstar spacecraft to operate through 2026.

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV launched into a setting sun over Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 8:03 p.m. EDT, leaving a brilliant smoke trail as it arced out over the Atlantic waters.

Powered by an RS-68 core engine and two solid rocket boosters, the Delta was soaring faster than the speed of sound one minute later as it raced northeasterly up the United States coastline.

Friday's launch marked the 26th flight of a Delta IV since it's first mission in 2002.

GPS IIF-6 carries signal standards for both military and civilian users.

A mightier Delta IV-Heavy is scheduled to lift-off this December from the same launch pad to carry into space NASA's Orion spacecraft on a test flight for future manned space missions.

(Charles Atkeison reports on aerospace, science and technology. Follow his updates via Twitter @spaceflight360.)

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