Launching a GPS Navigation Satellite on a SpaceX Rocket

Watch our live coverage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket countdown and launch at 7:24 am EST (1224 GMT) on January 18 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Space Force Station Cape Canaveral, Florida, using Space Force 3 SV06 GPS navigation. American satellite. follow us twitter.

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SpaceX’s second launch by the US military is expected to take off in three days from Florida and place a GPS navigation satellite into orbit on Wednesday, bolstering the global positioning and timing network as four more GPS spacecraft are stored at the factory. from Lockheed Martin. be released as needed over the next few years.

The US Space Force’s GPS 3 SV06 mission – the sixth spacecraft in the latest generation of GPS 3 series satellites – is scheduled to launch at 7:10 am EDT (1210 GMT) on Wednesday from Pad 40 at NASA Satellite Station. Cape Canaveral Force, Florida. . A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the satellite into orbit. 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 the launch of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Center, carrying two military satellites into geosynchronous orbit. Space Force officials declared the mission a success.

Forecasters expect there to be more than a 90% chance of favorable weather on Wednesday morning for the Falcon 9’s liftoff from Cape Canaveral, but officials will monitor wind and sea conditions in the propulsion zone. There is a moderate to high risk that conditions are not favorable for a first stage landing, which could lead to SpaceX delaying the launch.

Once lifted off, the 229-foot (70-meter) Falcon 9 rocket will head northeast of Cape Canaveral to position the GPS 3 SV06 satellite at the appropriate altitude and inclination for its final launch position in the GPS constellation.

Following the standard launch profile, Falcon 9 will power its nine kerosene-fueled first-stage engines for approximately two and a half minutes. The booster will lock and pull away from the Falcon 9’s upper stage, which will continue in orbit using the GPS satellite, first placing the payload into a parking orbit approximately eight minutes after liftoff.

Around the same time, the first stage of the Falcon 9 booster – designed as B1077 – will drop from the sky and slow down to land on a SpaceX drone parked a few hundred miles east of Charleston, South Carolina. The booster drone, scheduled for its second trip to space, will again be flown to Cape Canaveral to be refurbished and reused for a future mission.

The payload on top of the Falcon 9 will jettison moments after the upper stage engine fires for its first burn. SpaceX sent a salvage vessel to the Atlantic Ocean to retrieve the nose cone halves for reuse after the parachute fell into the sea.

Approximately 63 minutes into the mission, the Falcon 9’s upper stage will light up for approximately 44 seconds. The powerful engine, generating more than 200,000 pounds of thrust, will propel the GPS 3 SV06 spacecraft through a long orbit of approximately 12,550 miles (20,200 kilometers) at its highest point.

After flying within communication range of Space Force ground stations in Hawaii and California, the rocket will launch the GPS satellite approximately 1 hour and 29 minutes after liftoff.

Over the next two weeks, the satellite will use its orbital lift engine to maneuver in a circular Middle-earth orbit 12,550 miles above Earth with an inclination of 55 degrees. If all goes as planned, the new satellite, dubbed “Amelia Earhart” in honor of 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 powered launch configuration, according to Col. Young Ha, senior commander of equipment for acquiring Delta GPS spacecraft at Space Systems Command.

“The spacecraft is fine and all systems are working,” Ha said Tuesday on a conference call with reporters.

Artist’s impression of a GPS 3 satellite in space. Credit: Lockheed Martin

Andre Trotter, vice president of navigation systems at Lockheed Martin, said the company has four more Series 3 GPS satellites ready to be picked up by Space Force.

“We currently have four more Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites at our Colorado facility, available for launch and ready to respond to the call of Space Force,” Trotter told reporters Tuesday on a conference call. 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.

Construction of the first eight GPS 3 satellites was the subject of a 2008 contract worth $3.6 billion. The military ordered two additional GPS 3 satellites at a later date. The first GPS 3 satellite launched in 2018 and the latest mission, SV05, launches in June 2021.

Military officials have not been able to provide an exact cost for the GPS 3 SV06 spacecraft, but the average cost per satellite when purchased in 2008 is approximately $600 million in adjusted dollars.

The GPS Navigation Satellite 3 series is designed for a service life of up to 15 years, which is an improvement over the projected service life of the previous generation of GPS satellites of seven and a half years and 12 years. According to Lockheed Martin, GPS 3 satellites offer three times better accuracy and up to eight times better anti-jamming capabilities than GPS spacecraft.

The GPS 3 satellites also provide a new civil L-band signal compatible with other international satellite navigation networks such as the European Galileo programme. Combining signals from GPS, Galileo and other navigation satellites can improve the accuracy of spatial 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 upgraded 3F GPS satellites. Space Force has placed firm orders with Lockheed Martin for the first 10 3F GPS satellites, which will provide the military with new capabilities such as enhanced regional protection and better anti-jamming capabilities, enhanced search-and-rescue payload rescue, and an array of reflectors to laser to help provide more accurate data about the location of each spacecraft in orbit. , information that will lead to more accurate location information for terrestrial users.

L3Harris Technologies builds navigation payloads for Global Positioning System (GPS) 3 satellites.

Civilians use the Global Positioning System on their smartphones, and aircraft use enhanced GPS signals for accurate landings and in-flight navigation. Banks use timing signals from GPS satellites to time financial transactions.

“GPS is now part of our critical national infrastructure,” said Trotter.

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