Colorado celebrates 20th anniversary of GPS with milestone satellite launch

7/14/2015

DENVER – July 14, 2015 – This week, Colorado’s aerospace industry, alongside the U.S. Air Force Space Command, celebrates 20 years since the Global Positioning System (GPS) was declared at Full Operational Capability (FOC) on July 17, 1995. In the two decades since, GPS technology has been woven into nearly every aspect of human activity, both as a military tool and a day-to-day civilian utility. With four billion GPS-enabled devices worldwide—a number expected to double in the next five years—it is estimated that the global GPS market will reach more than $26 billion in value by 2016.

GPS is operated by the 2nd Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado. “Since 1995, GPS has been the gold standard for global space-based navigation, providing highly reliable and accurate navigation and timing signals to users around the world,” said Gen. John E. Hyten, Commander of the Air Force Space Command.

The celebration begins this Wednesday, July 15, as Colorado-headquartered United Launch Alliance (ULA) will launch the GPS IIF-10 mission—one of the next-generation GPS satellites—from an Atlas V 401 rocket for the U.S. Air Force at Cape Canaveral. The GPS IIF-10—built by Boeing—incorporates various improvements to provide greater accuracy, increased signals, and enhanced performance for users, and marks the 55th Atlas V launch since the vehicle’s inaugural launch in 2002.

Every operational GPS mission has been successfully launched and positioned in orbit by Colorado-headquartered ULA or the company’s heritage launch vehicles. “ULA is proud to play such a pivotal a role in the past, present, and future of GPS innovation here in Colorado,” said Tory Bruno, president and CEO of United Launch Alliance. “We look forward to continuing to provide 100 percent mission success for this integral piece of modern technology in the years to come.”

This Friday, July 17, Governor Hickenlooper will declare “GPS Day” in Colorado to celebrate the leading role Colorado plays in providing and advancing GPS technology.

“We want to congratulate all of the Colorado aerospace collaborators that are a part of bringing GPS innovation to the citizens of the entire globe,” Gov. Hickenlooper said. “Proclaiming this day “GPS Day” in Colorado is a fitting opportunity to shine a significant spotlight on our state’s critical role in satellite and geospatial technologies.”

Colorado companies are leading the charge in bringing current and future GPS assets to life. GPS III, the most powerful GPS satellite ever developed, is now being designed and built at Lockheed Martin’s advanced satellite manufacturing facility in Littleton, while Raytheon in Aurora is developing the command and control capabilities for the new GPS III family of satellites. Companies such as Boeing, Harris Corporation, Braxton Technologies, and Infinity Systems Engineering also support GPS development and operations from locations in Colorado. 

Leading space projects, such as these GPS efforts, have contributed to close to 163,000 space-related jobs in the state, which is also home to more than 400 space-related companies. Colorado now ranks first in the nation for the number of private aerospace workers per capita and is also a national hub for geospatial technologies, remote sensing, and satellite-based services. These comprise the largest category of the state’s space economic activity, bringing in $6.3 billion in annual revenue, and experiencing nearly 8 percent annual growth year over year. 

Colorado also has the nation’s second-most highly educated workforce, a high concentration of major space military centers, and boasts research universities that are prominent players in aerospace innovation and training the next generation of aerospace workers for both the public and private sectors. 

“Colorado aerospace companies are at the forefront of space travel, exploration, and research,” said Major General Jay Lindell, Colorado’s aerospace industry champion. “‘GPS Day’ in Colorado amplifies our continuing support for aerospace business and innovation in this state, and this milestone further validates Colorado’s pioneering role in capitalizing on what space exploration can do to change our very society.” 

To learn more about Colorado's aerospace sector, visit the Colorado Space Coalition's website at www.spacecolorado.org.

Press Contact: Janet Fritz, Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation 303.620.8039.

SOURCE: Colorado Space Coalition