Featured Image Source: SpaceX
The United States Space Force contracted SpaceX's services to launch a third new-generation GPS-3 series navigation satellite. The $500 million satellite is designed to upgrade the United States' GPS navigation constellation. U.S. Space Force says it will work alongside 31 operational satellites in their GPS network, which provide time and positioning services globally for the military, also civilian users. The satellites send signals to airplanes, road vehicles, bank ATMs, even bombs that are controlled by computerized systems. The GPS-3 was transported aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo plane from Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, and arrived on February 5 at Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville, Florida. Colonel Edward Byrne, chief of Production Corps’ Medium Earth Orbit Space Systems Division at the Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, stated:
"The arrival of the third GPS 3 satellite is another landmark for the program and is a testament to the professionalism, hard work and dedication of GPS team members from all parts of the country."
Source: Lockheed Martin
The navigation GPS-3 satellite is currently at an Astrotech payload processing facility, where Lockheed Martin teams will conduct final preparations in Florida. Including fueling the satellite with maneuvering propellant, ahead of its launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, scheduled for April 29. Mission will take place sometime during a 4-hour launch period, opening at 7:00 a.m. EST. the exact launch time has not been announced publicly yet.
Source: U.S. Air Force photo / Lt. Col. Maggie Sullivan
On February 20, the Falcon 9 rocket underwent a full static-fire test, a pre-flight preparation in which the rockets nine Merlin 1D engines are briefly ignited, as engineers asses if the rocket is in optimal conditions for flight. The Air Force's Space and Missile Center shared a video via Twitter of the static-fire test, stating:
"No audio, but no less dramatic watching this full duration static fire test of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 first stage rocket booster that will support U.S. Space Force and Air Force Space and Missile Center next GPS III mission."
No audio, but no less dramatic watching this full duration static fire test of @SpaceX’s Falcon 9 first stage rocket booster that will support @USSpaceForceDoD's and @AF_SMC's next GPS III mission (Video courtesy @SpaceX). #SpaceStartsHere #SMC pic.twitter.com/bNGpPSiDfs— SMC (@AF_SMC) February 20, 2020
When GPS-3 is ready and loaded with fuel, teams will encapsulate the satellite inside a Falcon 9 payload fairing, then transport it to a nearby SpaceX launch facility where SpaceX will mount the GPS-3 (SV03) satellite, inside the fairing, horizontally atop the rocket before rolling it out. Colonel Byrne said:
"The delivery of SV03 marks the start of our second GPS 3 launch campaign on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and brings us another step closer in advancing the GPS constellation with more capable satellites."
SpaceX typically recovers the Falcon 9 rocket's first-stage, by bringing them from space to perform a controlled landing on autonomous droneships at sea and landing pads. Recovering rocket boosters enables the company to decrease the cost of manufacturing, also decreases the price of operation for customers. During U.S. military missions the rocket is not usually recovered but during this upcoming launch SpaceX has permission to recover the Falcon 9 booster they will utilize. It will be the first time a Falcon 9 rocket attempts a landing during a contract mission for the U.S. military.Follow @JaneidyEve
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.