August 2nd, 2014, Cape Canaveral, FL – Early Saturday morning, after an approximate 3 1/2 hours of flight, the GPS IIF satellite vehicle finally separated from the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, and took its place in semi-synchronous orbit with 6 of its siblings at an altitude of just under 10,900 nautical miles. The 7th of a planned 12, GPS IIF or Follow-on, is an interim class of GPS satellite designed as a stopgap measure to maintain a functional GPS system until the GPS IIIA satellites enter operational service.

In an ongoing effort to modernize the entire GPS system, Boeing’s GPS IIF satellites bring many core improvements for both military and civilian users. A brief outline of these evolved capabilities are:

– 3rd civil signal on L5 frequency (L5)
– Advanced atomic clocks
– Improved accuracy, signal strength, and quality
– 12-year design lifespan

GPS IIF-7 Satellite Launch
GPS IIF-7 Satellite Launch (Credit/ULA)

Perhaps the most impactful of these new improvements is the L5 signal. L5 is a U.S. signal designation that is reserved solely for aviation. In light of the many recent aviation tragedies, L5 holds the promise of significantly improved safety in aviation transportation.

Beyond aviation, L5 will act as the 3rd, and most advanced, civilian GPS signal. When used in combination with the 1st two GPS signals, L1 C/A and L2C, L5 could provide position accuracy in feet, versus meters. The new GPS IIF-7 satellite will undergo a battery of tests, and is expected to join active operational service in the GPS constellation by September of this year.


We have more great articles in our archives on GPS technology. “GPS Tracking of Insured Drivers. Potential for Pay-by-Mile Snooping?”