SMC, partners poised to launch fourth GPS III satellite

A Falcon 9 with GPS III SV 04 encapsulated inside the payload fairing the stands vertical on the pad at Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 40 in preparation for its Sept. 30, 2020, launch. The satellite will augment the current GPS constellation comprised of 31 operational spacecraft in Medium Earth Orbit. (SpaceX photograph)

The U.S. Space Force’s newest Global Positioning System (GPS) III satellite, Space Vehicle 04 (GPS III SV04) rolled out to Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida, Sept. 27, 2020.

The Lockheed Martin-built GPS III SV04 is scheduled to launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket – the third National Security Space Launch mission on a Falcon 9 rocket, the second U.S. Space Force first-stage booster recovery, and the sixth Space Force launch on Sept. 30. The 15-minute launch window opens at 9:51 p.m., EDT. A live feed will begin 20 minutes before the launch and conclude approximately 45 minutes afterward. A simulcast of the broadcast can be viewed at

“The GPS III program office in partnership with our contract teammates continue to push the envelope on the capabilities they deliver to users, both civil and military around the globe. Our latest GPS III satellites’ nearly 70 percent digital payload provides the U. S. Space Force with greater operational flexibility and cutting edge capabilities while continuing to support legacy users,” said Cordell DeLaPena, Air Force program executive officer for SMC’s Space Production Corps.

GPS III SV04 will be launched to augment the current GPS constellation comprised of 31 operational spacecraft. GPS satellites operate in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) at an altitude of approximately 20,200 km (12,550 miles) in six orbital planes. Each satellite circles the earth twice per day. GPS is the premier space-based provider of positioning, navigation, and timing services for more than four billion users worldwide. This latest generation of GPS satellite boasts a 15-year design life — 25 percent longer than the previous generati
on of GPS satellites on orbit.

GPS III brings new capabilities to users such as the new L1C civilian signal, which opens the window for future interoperability with international satellite navigation systems.

“Our GPS III team is excited to be here once again. Less than 3 months ago, we successfully launched GPS III SV03. Since then, the team has successfully delivered the satellite to its final orbit, performed on-orbit testing and delivered the satellite to operations, while executing a mature satellite production line. I can’t be more proud of everyone involved in this mission,” said Col. Edward Byrne, Medium Earth Orbit Space Systems Division chief. “The launch of GPS III SV04 will continue to modernize our GPS constellation by increasing our capabilities with advanced features for both our civil and military users across the world.

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