Watch our live coverage of the countdown and launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 7:24 AM EST (1224 GMT) on January 18 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Space Force Station Cape Canaveral, Florida, using the Space Force’s GPS 3 SV06 navigation satellite American. Follow us Twitter.
The US Army’s second SpaceX launch is set to take off in three days from Florida and deliver a GPS navigation satellite into orbit Wednesday, bolstering the global positioning and timing network as four more GPS spacecraft are stored at the Lockheed Martin plant. In Colorado it will be launched as needed over the next few years.
The launch of the US Space Force’s GPS 3 SV06 mission — the sixth spacecraft in the latest generation of GPS 3 series satellites — is set for 7:10 a.m. EDT (1210 GMT) Wednesday from Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Force Station Satellite in Florida. . A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will give the satellite a ride into orbit. The Falcon 9 has a 15-minute launch window on Wednesday.
Wednesday’s launch of the new Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite comes less than three days after a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launched from Kennedy Space Center carrying two military satellites into geosynchronous orbit. Space Force officials said this mission was a success.
Forecasters expect there will be more than a 90% chance of favorable weather Wednesday morning for a Falcon 9 liftoff from Cape Canaveral, but officials will monitor wind and sea conditions in the boost area. There is a moderate to high risk that conditions will not be favorable for a first-stage landing, which could prompt SpaceX to delay the launch.
Once lifted off, the 229-foot (70-meter) Falcon 9 rocket will head northeast from Cape Canaveral to position the GPS 3 SV06 satellite at the proper altitude and inclination for its final launch position in the GPS constellation.
Following the standard launch profile, the Falcon 9 will power its nine kerosene-fueled first-stage engines for approximately two and a half minutes. The booster will lock and drop away from the Falcon 9 upper stage, which will continue into orbit using the GPS satellite, first placing the payload into a parking orbit about eight minutes after liftoff.
Around the same time, the first stage of the Falcon 9 booster — designed B1077 — will fall from the sky and slow to land on a SpaceX drone ship stationed a few hundred miles east of Charleston, South Carolina. The booster drone ship, scheduled for its second trip into space, will once again be brought to Cape Canaveral for refurbishment and reuse on a future mission.
The payload on top of the Falcon 9 will be jettisoned a few moments after the upper stage engine ignites for its first burn. SpaceX has sent a salvage ship to the Atlantic Ocean to retrieve the nose cone halves for reuse, after the parachute dropped into the sea.
About 63 minutes into the mission, the Falcon 9 upper stage will ignite for about 44 seconds. The powerful engine, generating more than 200,000 pounds of thrust, will propel the GPS 3 SV06 spacecraft into a long orbit spanning about 12,550 miles (20,200 kilometers) at its highest point.
After flying within communications range of Space Force ground stations in Hawaii and California, the rocket will deploy the GPS satellite at approximately 1 hour and 29 minutes after liftoff.
Over the next two weeks, the satellite will use its orbit lift engine to maneuver into a circular middle-Earth orbit 12,550 miles above Earth at an inclination of 55 degrees. If all goes according to plan, the new satellite, dubbed “Amelia Earhart” after the aviation pioneer, will be transferred to the control of Space Force operators.
The GPS 3 SV06 spacecraft is the sixth in a series of GPS 3 series satellites built by Lockheed Martin. The satellite weighs 9,595 pounds (4,352 kilograms) in its fully propelled launch configuration, according to Col. Young Ha, senior gear commander for Delta GPS spacecraft acquisition at Space Systems Command.
“The spacecraft is in good health and all systems are working,” Ha said on Tuesday on a conference call with reporters.
Andre Trotter, vice president of navigation systems at Lockheed Martin, said the company has four more GPS 3-series satellites ready for recall by the Space Force.
“We currently have four more Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites at our facility in Colorado, available for launch and ready to answer the Space Force’s call,” Trotter told reporters Tuesday at a pre-launch press conference. These satellites, numbered GPS 3 SV07 through SV10, are the last spacecraft in Lockheed Martin’s first batch of GPS 3 satellites ordered by the Pentagon in 2008.
The next GPS satellite, GPS 3 SV07, is scheduled to launch in mid-2024 on a United Launch Alliance Vulcan rocket. It is a candidate to become the first national security payload to fly on ULA’s new Vulcan launch vehicle.
The 2008 contract covers the construction of the first eight GPS 3 satellites, worth $3.6 billion. The Army ordered two additional GPS 3 satellites at a later date. The first GPS 3 satellite was launched in 2018, and the newest mission, SV05, is launched in June 2021.
Military officials were unable to provide an exact cost for the GPS 3 SV06 spacecraft, but the average cost per satellite in the 2008 purchase is about $600 million in inflation-adjusted dollars.
The GPS Navigation Satellite 3 Series is designed for lifespans of up to 15 years, which is an improvement over the design life of the previous generation GPS satellites of seven and a half years and 12 years. GPS 3 satellites provide three times better accuracy and up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities than GPS spacecraft, according to Lockheed Martin.
GPS 3 satellites also offer a new L-band civilian signal that is compatible with other international navigation satellite networks, such as the European Galileo programme. Combining signals from GPS, Galileo, and other navigation satellites can improve the accuracy of satellite location measurements.
The US military uses GPS satellites for smart bombs and other precision-guided munitions. The forces rely on the network, which requires at least 24 satellites for global coverage, to provide pole-to-pole positioning data.
Lockheed Martin won a follow-up contract from the Army in 2018 to build up to 22 updated GPS 3F satellites. The Space Force has placed firm orders with Lockheed Martin for the first 10 GPS 3F satellites, which will provide the Army with new capabilities such as enhanced regional protection and better anti-jamming capabilities, an upgraded search-and-rescue payload, and an array laser reflector to help provide more accurate data on the location of each spacecraft in orbit. , information that will lead to more accurate location information for users on the ground.
L3Harris Technologies builds navigation payloads for the Global Positioning System (GPS) 3 satellites.
Civilians use the global positioning system on their smartphones, and planes use enhanced GPS signals for precise landings and in-flight navigation. Banks use time signals from GPS satellites to determine the time of financial transactions.
“GPS has become part of our critical national infrastructure,” Trotter said.
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