United Launch Alliance successfully launched Feb. 5 an Atlas 5 rocket carrying the GPS 2F-12 satellite for the U.S. Air Force. Credit: ULA.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force kicked off a two-launch, six-day stretch by lifting the last in the 2F series of GPS satellites Feb. 5 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

The satellite launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. ULA officials said the launch included a new suite of avionics, flight software and ground systems as part of long-standing company initiative to reduce cost and improve reliability.

The 12 GPS 2F satellites, the first of which launched in May 2010, were built by Boeing Network and Space Systems of El Segundo, California. The satellites provide better accuracy and resistance to jamming than the previous generation of GPS satellites, most of which are still in operation.

“The GPS 2F satellite performance has been exceptional and is expected to be operational for years to come,” Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, commander of the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, said in a Feb. 5 press release.

The Air Force confirmed the successful launch about four hours after the 8:38 a.m. Eastern liftoff.

The launch marked the Air Force’s  50th GPS satellite on orbit. The first of the service’s next-generation GPS satellites, known as GPS 3, is expected to launch no earlier than the spring of 2017, although industry officials expect it to slip to 2018.

ULA’s next launch is scheduled for Feb. 10 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, when a Delta 4 rocket will carry a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office.

Mike Gruss covers military space issues, including the U.S. Air Force and Missile Defense Agency, for SpaceNews. He is a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.