2nd Boeing-Built GPS IIF Satellite Enters Service with US Air force

Boeing today announced that the second of 12 GPS IIF satellites the company is building for the U.S. Air Force has achieved operational acceptance and entered service. With testing complete, GPS IIF-2, now called SVN-63, is the newest satellite to join the active 31-satellite GPS constellation operated by the Air Force 50th Space Wing and the 2nd Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo.

“The Air Force and allied military forces around the world use GPS devices in virtually every system to improve their capabilities and effectiveness while reducing risk to the warfighter,” said Air Force Col. Bernard Gruber, director of the GPS Directorate. “This next-generation GPS IIF satellite has been set healthy and is ready to begin providing a strong, clear and secure signal.”

Boeing technicians examine the GPS IIF-1 satellite shortly before its shipment to Cape Canaveral for its May 2010 launch. The upright frames protect the satellite’s precision antennas during shipping. Photo credit: The Boeing Company.

Boeing is responsible for the GPS ground and space segments, providing an integrated system solution for GPS IIF and for the operation of the entire constellation. As a prime contractor for GPS satellites for more than three decades, Boeing has delivered 40 spacecraft that are successfully populating and sustaining the GPS system. Boeing GPS satellites have demonstrated reliable performance and exceeded their operational design life. GPS IIF will form the core of the GPS constellation for the next decade or longer.

“GPS is deeply woven into everyday life and is the foundation of global, civil, commercial and defense applications for more than 1 billion users worldwide,” said Craig Cooning, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space & Intelligence Systems. “Boeing has a long legacy of support on the GPS program to the U.S. Air Force, and the delivery of this new IIF satellite augments the constellation’s ability to provide highly accurate, three-dimensional position, velocity and timing information 24 hours a day in all weather conditions.”

Launched on July 16, SVN-63 immediately entered verification testing using the Boeing-developed Operational Control Segment (OCS) system and government GPS ground assets and receivers. The OCS, which gained full operational status with the Air Force in April, enables an expanding set of services and capabilities, including improved anti-jam capabilities for warfighters and improved security for all users.

The flexible design of the OCS system enables new generations of GPS satellites, including GPS IIF, to be efficiently added to the constellation. On-orbit testing for the SVN-63 spacecraft took less time than for the first IIF satellite (SVN-62) because the testing on SVN-62 included a set of one-time, system-level design validation tests that involved the space vehicle, the OCS, and user equipment.

Boeing is building 10 additional GPS IIF satellites with the pulse line at its Satellite Development Center in El Segundo. The IIF pulse line efficiently moves a satellite from one work area to the next in a steady rhythm. Adapted from Boeing commercial airplane manufacturing operations, the pulse line will enable Boeing to deliver the spacecraft faster, more efficiently and with higher quality. Launch of the third GPS IIF satellite will be determined by the Air Force in the coming months.

A unit of The Boeing Company, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is one of the world’s largest defense, space and security businesses specializing in innovative and capabilities-driven customer solutions, and the world’s largest and most versatile manufacturer of military aircraft. Headquartered in St. Louis, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is a $32 billion business with 64,000 employees worldwide.

Juno spacecraft bound for Jupiter

On Friday at 12:25 a.m. EDT, NASA’s newest spacecraft, Juno, launched into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on its way to Jupiter. Juno will engage in an analysis of the planet from an orbit around it.

Juno Spacecraft in front of jupiter.

Researchers hope that the spacecraft and its myriad of instruments will shed light on the origins of Jupiter. Furthermore, being the largest and oldest planet in the solar system, scientists believe that Jupiter may also hold clues to the formation and evolution of the early solar system. Additionally, the data gathered from Juno may help scientists to understand early planetary processes occurring in other star systems beyond our own.

Juno will travel roughly 1,740 million miles (2,800 million kilometers) over the course of its five-year journey.

Cassini spacecraft captures large storm on Saturn

On Wednesday NASA released details of a giant convective storm on Saturn gathered from the international Cassini spacecraft orbiting the planet. The storm, known as a “Great White Spot”, is around 6,200 miles (10,000 kilometers) wide and visible from Earth.

The White Spot storms have been observed since 1876 and occur approximately every 30 years; only five previous storms have been seen in the last 137 years. The first signs were detected on December 5, 2010 by instruments aboard the Cassini spacecraft when it recorded lightening outbursts in a small bright area on Saturn’s northern half. The area was tracked by the spacecraft and by astronomers on the ground through telescopes. It was later identified as a brewing storm during the start of Saturn spring. Its size and intensity grew until its tail wrapped around the planet. It now covers 1.5 billion square miles.

Saturn showing the Great White Spot. Image: spacetelescope.org.

Cassini has been monitoring storms on Saturn since the craft arrived there in 2004. This is the most intense yet seen and was observed in unprecedented detail, according to the journal Nature in two papers published Thursday. The storm is 500 times larger than the biggest storm on Saturn monitored by Cassini. The spacecraft’s instruments showed the rate of the nearly continuous lightning flashes was up to ten times more frequent than during past storms it has monitored. This electrical activity is 10,000 times stronger than lightning bursts measured on Earth.

Saturn’s huge storm is bright due to its gaseous content, scientists say.

A key question is the source of the energy powering Great White Spots. Originally researchers thought the storms’ power might come from the sun. However, researcher Agustin Sánchez-Lavega told Space.com the new data showed that to make sense of the cloud patterns, the winds must “extend deep into the ‘weather layer’ … where the main clouds reside.” Since sunlight does not reach this depth, this “points to the action of an internal heat source as the power for the winds.”

ISRO Builds India’s Fastest Supercomputer

Indian Space Research Organisation has built a supercomputer, which is to be India’s fastest supercomputer in terms of theoretical peak performance of 220 TeraFLOPS (220 Trillion Floating Point Operations per second). The supercomputing facility named as Satish Dhawan Supercomputing Facility is located at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram. The new Graphic Processing Unit (GPU) based supercomputer named “SAGA-220” (Supercomputer for Aerospace with GPU Architecture-220 TeraFLOPS) is being used by space scientists for solving complex aerospace problems. The supercomputer SAGA-220 was inaugurated by Dr K Radhakrishnan, Chairman, ISRO today at VSSC.

India's fastest Supercomputer - SAGA-220.

 “SAGA-220” Supercomputer is fully designed and built by Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre using commercially available hardware, open source software components and in house developments. The system uses 400 NVIDIA Tesla 2070 GPUs and 400 Intel Quad Core Xeon CPUs supplied by WIPRO with a high speed interconnect. With each GPU and CPU providing a performance of 500 GigaFLOPS and 50 GigaFLOPS respectively, the theoretical peak performance of the system amounts to 220 TeraFLOPS. The present GPU system offers significant advantage over the conventional CPU based system in terms of cost, power and space requirements. The total cost of this Supercomputer is about Rs. 14 crores. The system is environmentally green and consumes a power of only 150 kW. This system can also be easily scaled to many PetaFLOPS (1000 TeraFLOPS).

Anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s spaceflight marks fifty years of human space travel

On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin lifted off on Vostok 1, the first human spaceflight in history, completing one orbit of the Earth in just under two hours. Tuesday marks the anniversary of Gagarin’s flight and fifty years of human space travel.

Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin, the first human in space, completing one orbit of the Earth in just under two hours.

Celebrations were to take place all over the world and aboard the International Space Station. Yuri’s Night, started in 2001 for fortieth anniversary celebrations, is a global celebration of the history of spaceflight, including the first Space Shuttle launch on April 12, 1981, the twentieth anniversary of Gagarin’s flight. There were to be more than 400 events in 71 countries celebrating Yuri’s Night this year.

Gagarin’s flight lasted 108 minutes, just under two hours, and consisted of one full orbit around the Earth. His trip to orbit came just four years after the launch of Sputnik 1 and the beginning of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union (USSR).

Vostok I capsule used by Yuri Gagarin, now on display at the RKK Energiya Museum outside of Moscow.

The crew on board the International Space Station (ISS) also marked the fiftieth anniversary by delivering a message from space. While addressing viewers, station commander Dmitry Kondratyev referred to the portrait of Gagarin floating next to him as a representation of the achievement of “humankind at large”.

A movie, entitled First Orbit, was filmed in parts in space when the orbit of the ISS matched that of Gagarin’s flight. The movie, produced by filmmaker Christopher Riley, was filmed by ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli and matches the radio communications, times, and views of the flight. The film is freely available to the public and made its debut on Tuesday to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the human race becoming a space-faring species.

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