by Scott Prater
Schriever Sentinel staff writer
2/26/2014 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- While GPS Block IIF-5 sat atop a Delta IV rocket Feb. 20 at Cape Canaveral, Fla., the men and women of the 2nd and 19th Space Operations Squadron here were busy preparing for liftoff. These two squadrons epitomize the quintessential relationship between these Air Force Reserve and regular Air Force organizations that makes a successful "Total Force" team.
The casual observer may have guessed the Feb. 20 launch marked the start
of operations for the Air Force's newest GPS vehicle, yet, it was
hardly the beginning for 19th SOPS.
The 19th SOPS Airmen have been testing and training on the GPS constellation's newest addition for months.
"We conduct countdown, launch and early orbit operations," said Maj. Kim
Adams, 19th SOPS launch lead. "But, we work in tandem with 2nd SOPS,
the Space and Missile Systems Center and contractors. We work well
together and communicate effectively. This launch was our smoothest
The 19th SOPS is an associate organization to the 2nd SOPS, providing
Air Force Reserve "Citizen Airmen" support to their active duty
Though 2nd SOPS is most commonly associated as the command and control
unit responsible for operating GPS, the 19th SOPS team of reservists
plays a critical role in providing GPS service to the military and
civilian sectors, especially during satellite launches.
"We conducted eight major tests and activities with Cape Canaveral
starting about 120 days prior to launch," Adams said. "We also conducted
a mission dress rehearsal alongside Space and Missile Systems Center personnel at Los Angeles AFB about 30 days before launch."
Once the vehicle launched, the team, composed of 95 percent 19th SOPS personnel, sprung into a whole new mode.
Just as the launch countdown began Lt. Col. Matthew Brandt, 2nd SOPS
director of operations, settled into a seat inside the combined 2nd
SOPS-19th SOPS operations floor here.
"I was fascinated by the show," he said. "Our team of 2nd SOPS, 19th
SOPS, SMC personnel and contractors first acquired the satellite while
it was still attached to its booster rocket."
After the booster separated, the vehicle began turning on its own. Later
in the evening, it achieved sun-safe operations. That's when the team
stabilized it, deployed its solar arrays and sent its first commands.
"It's a riveting event to watch," Brandt said. "The teams are working
together, Major Adams is coordinating with 19th SOPS, SMC and
contractors, and you can hear personnel from Cape Canaveral on the
telecom speakers. Everyone is communicating back and forth, saying,
'we're go for this action; we're go for this stage.' And, it all went
Though this team has launched and orbited five satellites in the past
few years, Brandt said the technical marvel never ceases to amaze.
"I can't even get my garage door opener to work, but we can launch a
satellite that's traveling at thousands of miles an hour, thousands of
miles from Earth and every step occurred at exactly the time it needed
to occur," he said. "It's fascinating to see the team come together and
place the vehicle exactly where it needs to be."
Satellite vehicle No. 64 is the fifth GPS IIF vehicle on orbit. GPS IIF
satellites incorporate greater navigational accuracy than legacy
vehicles through improvements in atomic clock technology, an increased
design life of 12 years, a new third civilian signal [L5] that provides a
more robust signal for commercial aviation and safety-of-life
applications, and a second civilian signal [L2C] available for dual
frequency GPS receivers.
This launch marks the beginning of an event filled year for these space
professionals. Capt. Steven Miller, 2nd SOPS assistant director of
operations, said this launch was in many ways a rehearsal for the next
one because the Air Force plans to launch and orbit three more GPS IIF
satellites in 2014.
GPS IIF-6 is slated for a May liftoff, while another is due to occur in July and another in October.