Falcon 9

SpaceX completes Falcon 9 test ahead of U.S. Space Force GPS-III mission

SpaceX completes Falcon 9 test ahead of U.S. Space Force GPS-III mission

Featured Image Source: SpaceX

SpaceX is ready to perform a national security mission for the United States Space Force after rocket issues caused the mission to be delayed. The aerospace company is scheduled deploy the military's fourth new-generation series Global Positioning System satellite, known as GPS-III Space Vehicle 04 (SV04) next week. SpaceX previously deployed the third GPS III Space Vehicle 03 (SV03) on June 30. 

SpaceX attempted to launch the GPS-III SV04 satellite to orbit on October 2, but at around two seconds before liftoff launch controllers aborted the mission due to a Falcon 9 engine issue. During a news conference on October 28, SpaceX's Vice President of build and flight reliability Hans Koenigsmann said the engine issue was due to a residue of a "masking lacquer" designed to protect sensitive parts during anti-corrosion anodizing treatment. Koenigsmann shared with reporters, the SpaceX vendor that performed the lacquer coating treatment failed to remove all of the red color lacquer afterward, causing a blockage of small vent holes for Falcon 9's first-stage Merlin engine valves. SpaceX officials said they would fix the issue by replacing the affected Merlin engine(s).

Yesterday, October 31, SpaceX performed a static-fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket that is ready to propel GPS-III SV04 to orbit. "Static fire test complete," the company announced. During the static-fire test, the rocket’s nine Merlin 1D engines were fueled with rocket-grade kerosene and cryogenic liquid oxygen propellants, then ignited for a couple of seconds as the booster was grounded to the launch pad. This is a routine pre-flight preparation to ensure Falcon 9's engines, hardware, and software works optimally ahead of flight. --"Targeting Thursday, November 5 for a Falcon 9 launch of the United States Space Force’s GPS III Space Vehicle 04 from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida," SpaceX stated. A Falcon 9 rocket will attempt to launch the satellite to orbit during a 15-minute launch window that opens at 6:24 p.m. EST. If for whatever reason the launch does not take place on Thursday, a backup opportunity is scheduled for Friday, November 6 at 6:20 p.m. EST.



During the U.S. Space Force's GPS-III SV04 mission, SpaceX plans to recover Falcon 9's first-stage booster in order to reuse it on a future mission. "In September 2020, the United States Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) announced an agreement with SpaceX to launch previously flown first stage boosters on future National Security Space Launch (NSSL) missions," the company wrote in a press release.

Approximately nine minutes after liftoff, SpaceX will land Falcon 9’s booster on the Of Course I Still Love You autonomous droneship, stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. The GPS-III SV04 navigation satellite is planned to deploy 1 hour and 29 minutes after liftoff. You can watch the national security mission LIVE in the video below next week.



About the Author

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.

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