Friday’s launch of a Delta 4 rocket carrying the latest GPS satellite was tracked via GPS itself instead of by radar, reports Spaceflight Now in an article.
United Launch Alliance’s Atlas and Delta rockets are transitioning to GPS metric tracking for range safety functions, which protect the public and property should a launch vehicle veer off course. The move is a money-saving upgrade to the military’s aging range infrastructure.
A special avionics system on the launcher transmitted the location. For decades, most rockets launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, have been tracked by C-band radar.