SMC, partners successfully launch third GPS III satellite

The U.S. Space Force and its mission partners successfully launched the third Global Positioning Systems (GPS) III satellite at  4:10 p.m., EDT, June 30, 2020, from Space Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

The Lockheed Martin-built satellite was carried to orbit aboard a Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) Falcon 9 Launch Vehicle.

“Our team is committed to achieving excellence and reaching the “gold standard” of position, navigation, and timing. GPS III satellites will pioneer innovation and I look forward to seeing new technologies developed for the United States Space Force,” said Cordell DeLaPena, program executive officer for SMC’s Space Production Corps. “At SMC, we are proud to deliver our third GPS III satellite and will continue to operate at a high caliber.”

The first-stage booster of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Launch Vehicle was successfully recovered approximately 20 minutes after liftoff by the company’s autonomous spaceport drone ship in the predicted landing area. This launch marks the first NSSL mission where a launch provider has attempted to recovered flight hardware.

“The successful GPS III SV03 launch and recovery serves as another step in our journey with industry partners to create innovative, flexible, and affordable services to meet NSSL mission objectives and propel U.S. dominance in space.” said Col. Robert Bongiovi, Launch Enterprise director. “I’m proud of my team’s 81st successful National Security Space Launch and look forward to our additional National Security Space missions with SpaceX.”

GPS III’s SV03 separated from its upper stage approximately 88 minutes after launch. Engineers and operators at Lockheed Martin’s Waterton facility will now begin on-orbit checkout and tests which are estimated to complete in two weeks. Operational use is expected to begin as early as August 2020.

“The GPS III program continues to build on its successes by delivering advanced capabilities for the United States Space Force, and maintaining the “gold standard” for position, navigation and timing.” said Col. Edward Byrne, Medium Earth Orbit Space Systems Division chief. 

SV03 will join the current GPS constellation comprised of 31-operational spacecraft, and will be the 22nd military code-capable satellite to the fleet. GPS satellites operate in MEO at an altitude of approximately 12,550 miles in six planes. Each satellite circles the earth twice per day. GPS provides positioning, navigation, and timing services for billions of users worldwide. GPS III, the newest generation of GPS satellites, brings new capabilities to users, including three times greater accuracy, and up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities.

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