Featured Image Source: SpaceX / U.S. Space Force logo
The United States Space Force contracted SpaceX's services to launch its new-generation series Global Positioning System satellites, GPS III. On June 30, SpaceX deployed the third GPS III Space Vehicle 03 (SV03) successfully, now the company is ready to deploy the fourth satellite referred to as GPS III Space Vehicle 04 (SV04). A Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying the satellite to orbit next week.
F9/GPS: Space X test fired the first stage engines of a Falcon 9 rocket early today at Cape Canaveral that will carry a GPS satellite into space next week. Test looked normal. Will now standby for an update from SpaceX. pic.twitter.com/CQuuhhpqeQ— William Harwood (@cbs_spacenews) September 25, 2020
This morning, SpaceX performed a static-fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket that will propel GPS-III SV04 to orbit. “Static fire test complete – targeting Tuesday, September 29 for Falcon 9's launch of the GPS III Space Vehicle 04 mission,” SpaceX announced via Twitter. During the test, the rocket’s nine Merlin 1D engines were fueled with 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 the rocket’s engines, hardware, and software works optimally ahead of flight.
Static fire test complete – targeting Tuesday, September 29 for Falcon 9's launch of the GPS III Space Vehicle 04 mission— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 25, 2020
The $500 million GPS-III satellite SpaceX will deploy on Tuesday, is manufactured by Lockheed Martin. It is designed to upgrade the United States' GPS navigation constellation. “The Global Positioning System signal and service need to be protected based on the importance of GPS to national security, civil services, and the economic benefits to the nation,” the United States Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said earlier this year. The satellites beam GPS signals to airplanes, road vehicles, bank ATMs, even weapons that are controlled by computerized systems. The U.S Space Force says the GPS III will aid with new civil and warfighting capabilities by 2023 – “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 satellites are designed to operate in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) at an altitude of approximately 20,200 kilometers (12,550 miles) above Earth. “Once on-orbit, [Space Vehicle 04] it will join the operational constellation of 31 GPS satellites, delivering enhanced resiliency, better accuracy, and advanced anti-jam capabilities,” Air Force representatives wrote in a press release.