Falcon 9

SpaceX Launches The U.S. Space Force GPS III-5 Mission With A Flight-Proven Falcon 9 For The First Time

SpaceX Launches The U.S. Space Force GPS III-5 Mission With A Flight-Proven Falcon 9 For The First Time

Today, June 17, SpaceX launched the U.S. Space Force’s fifth third-generation series NAVSTAR Global Positioning System satellite, known as GPS-III Space Vehicle 05 (SV05/GPS III-5). To conduct this mission, SpaceX used a flight-proven Falcon 9 rocket booster for the first time for a Space Force national security mission. The previously-flown Falcon 9 lifted off at 12:09 p.m. EST from Launch Pad-40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, carrying the GPS III-5 satellite to orbit. 

Soon after propelling Falcon 9’s upper-stage to orbit, the first-stage booster returned from space 9-minutes later; It conducted a propulsive landing on the ‘Just Read the Instructions’ autonomous drone ship situated in the Atlantic Ocean – marking SpaceX’s 88 landing of an orbital-class rocket . “What a beautiful view of the first stage landing,” said Youmei Zhou, a SpaceX propulsion engineer, during the mission’s broadcast. Reusing boosters significantly reduces the cost of spaceflight. The U.S. military gave SpaceX authorization to launch its payloads to space aboard refurbished rockets this year, something that was previously not allowed for national security missions. According to Lt. Gen. John Thompson, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center, refurbishing Falcon 9’s first-stage booster to reuse on the GPS missions saves the government approximately $64 million. “I am thrilled to welcome SpaceX’s innovative reuse into the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) program,” said Thompson, in September 2020 after signing the agreement to launch payload aboard previously-flown Falcon 9 boosters. The booster used on this mission previously launched a GPS satellite. Overall, SpaceX has completed 122 successful Falcon 9 missions and reused boosters 64 times. 

The GPS III-5 navigation satellite was deployed to orbit approximately 1 hour after liftoff (video below). The $500 million satellite is manufactured by Lockheed Martin and named after Neil Armstrong, the first NASA astronaut who walked on the moon. It is designed to upgrade the United States' GPS navigation constellation that now has 34 satellites. GPS III-5 was deployed into a semi-synchronous Medium Earth Orbit (MEO). The satellite will operate in an altitude of approximately 20,200 kilometers (12,550 miles) above Earth. Each satellite circles the Earth twice a day to provide time and positioning services globally. “GPS delivers the gold standard of space-based positioning, navigation, and timing services vital to U.S. and allied operations worldwide, and underpins critical financial, transportation, and agricultural infrastructure that more than four billion users have come to depend on daily,” the U.S. Space Force stated. After dropping off the satellite into its designated orbit, Falcon 9’s second-stage onboard camera snapped a beautiful photograph of Earth, shown below. 


All Images Source: SpaceX

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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