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SpaceX is preparing to deploy the United States Space Force’s GPS-3, a third new-generation series Global Positioning System satellite. The mission is scheduled for June 30th, it will the first flight under the new branch of the Air Force. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will propel GPS-3 into orbit from Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 40, during a 15-minute window opening at 3:55 p.m. EDT. on Tuesday. The Falcon 9 rocket already completed a static-fire test, meant to ensure the rocket is functioning well ahead of flight. This launch will be different than previous national security missions, the senior materiel leader in Space and Missile Systems Center’s medium Earth orbit space systems division, Colonel Edward Byrne, stated SpaceX obtained military approval to recover the Falcon 9’s first-stage booster. The company will conduct its signature feat of landing an orbital-class rocket booster on a drone ship awaiting in the Atlantic Ocean.
The GPS-3 navigation satellite was transported by a truck to a SpaceX launch facility at Cape Canaveral on Thursday evening. Now, teams are in the process of attaching the satellite atop a Falcon 9 rocket. They install the payload inside a hangar near the launch pad. The satellite is manufactured by Lockheed Martin; It will upgrade the United States' GPS navigation constellation of 31 satellites. The satellites send navigation signals to airplanes, road vehicles, bank ATMs, and a variety of military platforms. The U.S. Space Force says the GPS-3 will aid with new civil and war-fighting capabilities - "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.” Colonel Byrne stated:
“The GPS program has set new standards of resilience and stability to respond to this crisis by successfully delivering the next third-generation GPS satellites to over four million military and civilian users around the world.”
The GPS-3 satellite will be deployed into an elliptical transfer orbit. After Falcon 9 deploys it, the GPS satellite will use its integrated propulsion system to reach an orbit at an altitude of about 20,200 kilometers (12,550 miles) above Earth. Each satellite in the GPS network circles the Earth twice a day to provide time and positioning services globally for the military and civilian users. The GPS constellation operates in six equally-spaced orbital planes consisting of 4 GPS satellites each, orbiting around the planet. The Air Force usually operates 24 GPS satellites per day out of the 31 in orbit, “This 24-slot arrangement ensures users can view at least four satellites from virtually any point on the planet,” the Department of Defense detailed.
Static fire test complete – targeting Tuesday, June 30 for Falcon 9 launch of GPS III Space Vehicle 03 from Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida— SpaceX (@SpaceX) June 25, 2020
About the Author
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.