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25-Sep-06 | Delta flight 318 – NAVSTAR IIR-15 (M2)

One year to the day since the last addition to the constellation of Global Positioning System satellites, today saw the successful placement into transfer orbit of NAVSTAR IIR-M2 thanks to the on-time launch of Delta flight 318. The three-stage Delta II 7925 left the pad at Space Launch Complex 17A at 14:50:00.024 EDT, soaring into a partly-cloudy blue sky at the end of a routine and uninterrupted terminal countdown.

After a flawless first and second stage operation, a 51-minute coast phase, and a follow-up second stage burn, a significant scare occurred toward the end of flight, when no telemetry was received during the burn of the Star 48B third stage or subsequent spacecraft deployment. Once communications had been established with the satellite, and playback of recorded telemetry from the Guam Tracking Station confirmed good third stage performance, Boeing announced a successful flight some twenty-five minutes later than expected.

The second “modernized” Block IIR satellite, also known as IIR-15, differs from the older IIR spacecraft with an added signal for civilian use and two new encrypted signals for military use. The “M-Code” signals, scheduled to be fully operational by 2010, will have increased power and reduced vulnerability to signal jamming. The satellite was delivered into an expected 104 by 10,998 nautical mile orbit, from which it will fire its onboard AKM within the next few days to enter a circular orbit in Plane A, Slot 2. IIR-M2 will replace NAVSTAR IIA-12, launched in February 1992 aboard Delta 207, which has far exceeded its design lifespan and is showing signs of system failures in its internal clock.

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