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A GPS satellite is a satellite used by the NAVSTAR Global Positioning System (GPS). The first satellite in the system, Navstar 1, was launched February 22, 1978. The GPS satellite constellation is operated by the 50th Space Wing of the United States Air Force.
The GPS satellites circle the Earth at an altitude of about 20,000 km (12,427 miles) and complete two full orbits every day.
Rockwell International was awarded a contract in 1974 to build the first eight Block I satellites. In 1978 the contract was extended to build an additional three Block I satellites. Beginning with Navstar 1 in 1978, ten "Block I" GPS satellites were successfully launched. One satellite, "Navstar 7", was lost due to an unsuccessful launch on 18 December 1981.
The Block I satellites were launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base using Atlas rockets that were converted intercontinental ballistic missiles. The satellites were built by Rockwell International at the same plant in Seal Beach, CA where the S-II second stages of the Saturn V rockets had been built.
The Block I series consisted of the concept validation satellites and reflected various stages of system development. Lessons learned from the 11 satellites in the series were incorporated into the fully operational Block II series.
Dual solar arrays supplied over 400 watts of power, charging NiCd batteries for operations in Earth's shadow. S-band communications were used for control and telemetry, while a UHF channel provided cross-links between spacecraft. A hydrazine propulsion system was used for orbital correction. The payload included two L-band navigation signals at 1575.42 MHz (L1) and 1227.60 MHz (L2).
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