The U.S. Air Force launched the newest version of McDonnell Douglas Corp.'s Delta rocket Monday, lifting into space a $65-million navigation satellite that will help troops deployed in the Persian Gulf pinpoint their locations accurately.
The satellite is built by Rockwell International Corp. in Seal Beach, and the Delta rocket is designed and partly built by McDonnell Douglas Space Systems Co. in Huntington Beach.
It was the maiden launch of the $45-million, 128-foot Delta II 7925 rocket and the 10th launch of a Navstar Global Positioning System satellite, said Tom Williams, a McDonnell Douglas spokesman. The Huntington Beach firm has contracts worth $669 million for a total of 20 Navstar satellites for the Air Force, Williams said.
The Navstar will allow U.S. and allied troops in the Middle East to use telephone-size hand-held receivers to determine their positions within 35 feet in the Saudi Arabian desert.
More than 1,000 receivers produced for civilian use have been distributed to the troops in the Persian Gulf, said Lt. Gen. Thomas Mooreman Jr., chief of the Air Force Space Command. Another 1,000 are on order.
The Navstars also contain atomic clocks, the most accurate timepieces in the world. With them, soldiers can synchronize their watches and carry out secret operations that require split-second timing, the Air Force said.