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GPS operators unveil new early-orbit, anomaly resolution system

Global Positioning System (GPS) Block IIR, supported by the 2nd and 19th Space Operations squadrons at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo. Image courtesy of Lockheed-Martin for Department of Defense and media publications; use for commercial purposes is prohibited.

Global Positioning System (GPS) Block IIR, supported by the 2nd and 19th Space Operations squadrons at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo. Image courtesy of Lockheed-Martin for Department of Defense and media publications; use for commercial purposes is prohibited.

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Operators with the 2nd and 19th Space Operations Squadrons here assumed control of the newest GPS satellite minutes after its Oct. 17 launch using a new Launch, Anomaly resolution and Disposal Operations system, or LADO. 

The new, $65-million system means 2nd SOPS will take over satellite control authority on this and future GPS launches about two weeks more quickly than with previous satellites, said 2nd SOPS' Staff Sgt. David Findish. 

"Where in the past we relied on (1st and 7th SOPS) to launch satellites and hand them over to us ... with LADO, we have greater ownership of the entire process," Sergeant Findish said. "We now have control of the satellite from the second it separates from the rocket until we dispose of it at the end of its life." 

The upgrade to LADO comes on the heels of a recent upgrade of GPS' ground control system to the Architecture Evolution Plan. 

"We've brought on a new GPS control segment, a new launch and early orbit control segment, and a new satellite in less than six weeks," said Lt. Col. Douglas Schiess, 2nd SOPS director of operations. "That is a huge accomplishment on its own, but our team did that while constantly providing the best navigation signal available to civilian and warfighter users. It's been an incredible team effort between 2nd SOPS, 19th SOPS, ground segment contractors and satellite contractors." 

Nineteenth SOPS is a Reserve associate unit to 2nd SOPS, and many of its operators have several years of experience with the GPS constellation. 

"Our folks have an incredible amount of credibility with their years of space experience in both their civilian and military positions," said Lt. Col. Traci Kueker-Murphy, 19th SOPS' operations officer. "It epitomizes what the citizen Airmen can bring to the table." 

"We couldn't have done this without our reserve partners," said 50th Operations Group commander Col. Clinton Crosier. "They were absolutely essential to the transition's success." 

In previous launches, 1st SOPS and its Reserve associate unit, 7th SOPS, provided launch and early orbit support through the legacy Command-and-Control System. Early orbit support operations for recent launches have taken approximately 14 days, at which point 1st SOPS relinquished satellite control authority to 2nd SOPS. 

As its name implies, LADO also provides GPS operators with the ability to handle end-of-life disposal and anomaly resolution in house. GPS operators typically have handled routine anomalies, but LADO will also allow them to handle major anomalies such as a tumbling satellite. This allows LADO operators to concentrate on fixing the anomaly alongside analysts and contractors while other 2nd SOPS operators maintain the rest of the constellation, said 2nd Lt. Robert Dover of 2nd SOPS. 

With an aggressive launch schedule planned out, LADO personnel will be busy both launching new satellites and maneuvering old ones into disposal orbits, Lieutenant Dover said. The new satellites will give deployed warfighters assured access to an accurate and stable navigation signal. 

(Information compiled from the 2nd and 19th Space Operations squadrons and staff reports.)