GPS Wing Observes Navstar's 30th Anniversary

  • Published
  • By Col. David Madden
  • Global Positioning Systems Wing Commander
February 22 marked the 30th anniversary of the first GPS signal in space with the launch of NAVSTAR 1 from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The Block I satellites, launched between Feb. 22, 1978 and Oct. 9, 1985 paved the way for an operational system that has revolutionized the way we go to war. 

Rockwell International made a special "first day of issue" card for each Block I launch and arranged for the Vandenberg AFB post office to stamp them with the date of the launch. 

The Block I contract, F4701-74-C-0527, was signed in August 1974. The first satellite launch was 42 months later, and the first four satellites launched within the space of a year - all in 1978. 

Inside GNSS magazine recapped the 30th anniversary of the first GPS signal in space in a story on their Web site. "Over the years, the program faced many risks and overcame many obstacles -- even defunding by the Air Force in 1980-82," the article states. "But the launch of SVN-01 became a shot heard 'round the world -- now louder than ever." 

In 2009, the GPS Wing will honor the 20th anniversary of the first officially operational Block II satellite, which was launched Feb. 14, 1989. Mission II-1 was a momentous occasion, starting the full operational constellation that the world now relies upon for precise navigation signal in space. Please join me in looking forward to more GPS heritage events as we get closer to that date.