Several alarmist headlines heralded a problem with the Global Positioning Satellite (a GPS IIR version) launched in March that they claimed could extend to the next series of GPS sats, the GPS IIF, the first of which is now slated to launch in the first half of Fiscal 2010. Lawmakers already expressed concern about a purported gap in coverage that may follow ongoing technology and schedule problems with the IIF series and what that might portend for the even more advanced GPS III. The current issue, identified during routine early orbit checkout of the new IIR sat, according to a June 16 release from the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles AFB, Calif., is that it is showing signal distortions. An Air Force and contractor investigation team has identified a fix that it will test probably through October, when the Air Force expects to introduce IIR-20 into the constellation. According to SMC, “the Air Force has high confidence there is no related concern with the remaining IIR vehicles, the next of which is slated to launch in August.
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.