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Rescue Airmen support GPS satellite rocket launch

Air Force Reserve combat-search-and-rescue Airmen from the 920th Rescue Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., supported the successful launch of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying a Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO-2 satellite, Tuesday at 5:21 p.m., from Launch Complex 41 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. (U.S. Air Force photo/Lt. Col. Robert Haston)

Air Force Reserve combat-search-and-rescue Airmen from the 920th Rescue Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., supported the successful launch of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying a Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO-2 satellite, Tuesday at 5:21 p.m., from Launch Complex 41 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. (U.S. Air Force photo/Lt. Col. Robert Haston)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. -- Reserve Airmen from the 920th Rescue Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., supported the successful launch of an Atlas V rocket May 15 at 5:38 p.m. EDT from Space Complex 41.

The rocket launched with the first GPS satellite since 1985. The satellite will provide precision navigation and timing to U.S. military forces and civilian users worldwide.

Of those military users of the technology, are rescue wing Airmen themselves. "As a pilot, you need to know where you are and where you're going," said Col. Jeffrey Macrander, 920th RQW commander who piloted one of two HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters on a mission to clear the Eastern Range prior to the rocket launch.

Rescue Airmen serve as a vital link to the success of all Space Coast rocket launches providing range clearing and security. They patrol the stretch of Atlantic Ocean beneath the launch trajectory ensuring no mariners veer into harm's way of potential rocket debris hazards, maintaining the security and safety of the Range.

Although, supporting launches is a fraction of what they do. Their primary mission, combat search and rescue, makes air travel a necessity to reach injured combatants on the battlefield. GPS saves aircrew time.

"Time is life in our business," said Macrander.

The new capabilities of the IIF satellites will provide greater navigational accuracy through improvements in atomic clock technology; a more robust signal for commercial aviation and safety-of-life applications, known as the new third civil signal (L5); and a 12-year design life providing long-term service. These upgrades improve anti-jam capabilities for the war fighter and improve security for military and civil users around the world.

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