by Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart
50th Space Wing public affairs
12/7/2015 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The
sound of applause erupted as the 2nd and 19th Space Operations
Squadrons and their mission partners celebrated the 25th anniversary of
satellite vehicle number 23, the Global Positioning System's oldest
operational satellite, at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Wednesday,
"This is most notable because the vehicle was designed to last seven and
a half years and we're just over three times its design life," said
Capt. Aaron Blain, 2 SOPS GPS Mission Analysis Flight commander.
"Twenty-five is just an awe-inspiring number for a satellite that should
have died so many times before."
This particular vehicle is no stranger to hardship. Despite maintenance
issues and several operational review boards during its lifespan, SVN-23
surprised its crew and surpassed all expectations.
"This vehicle has had the most ORBs, but it is so rugged that it has
survived everything within the last 25 years that may have killed it,"
said Blain. "It's currently fully operational, our crew is talking to it
right now and it is providing a perfect signal to the world."
As SVN-23 reached the age of 25, it shadows the age of many of its crew members.
"I'm only 23, so it is crazy to think that this satellite is older than
me, but it is still functioning and giving us what we need here," said
Senior Airman Chellandrea Cole, 2 SOPS GPS remote site liaison. "It's
remarkable that it's reached a quarter of a century-that is a long time
for a satellite."
Each member of Team Black Jack understands, regardless of their age,
they are critical to the GPS mission--providing global navigation, time
transfer and nuclear detection to a worldwide audience. Uses of GPS
include precise timing for financial transactions, search and rescue,
communications, farming, recreation and both military and commercial
"The crew members understand they have to be a little more sensitive
with this satellite and are always on their 'A-game,'" said Blain.
"Everyone here cares so much about the vehicles and the users.
Although SVN-23 was designed in a different era, crews have well maintained this satellite throughout its life.
"It's remarkable how well these systems have been taken care of," said
Cole. "It's still giving us accurate timing signals, navigation-it's
perfect for being how old it is."
The 2 and 19 SOPS members insist the reason this satellite has performed
so well and lasted so long is because of one thing-teamwork.
"This is a great team, and when we say team we actually mean it. If we
didn't work as a team, this vehicle wouldn't have survived its 25 years
in orbit," said Blain.
Blain insisted the GPS mission and maintenance of the satellites in
orbit wouldn't be possible without the support of Team Black Jack's
mission partners and leadership: Boeing, Aerospace, Lockheed Martin and
Headquarters Air Force Space Command-many of whom were in attendance at
"We all have a lot of pride and love in this vehicle," said Blain.
"Boeing and Aerospace have been the long-term continuity for everything
that has happened with this vehicle. We may be the ones punching the
buttons, but they're standing right behind us saying 'yes that's good.'
It's an amazing relationship."
As the team continues to care for SVN-23, they are also making plans for its disposition.
"The plan is to take it out of the operational constellation and make it
a residual vehicle in January of this upcoming year to make room for
the last IIF satellite which will launch Feb. 3, 2016," said Blain. "It
will be a bittersweet day when we take [SVN-23] out of operation and
especially when we dispose of it. It's done well for the world, and the
taxpayers have definitely got their bang for their buck on this