The Space and Missile Systems Center’s Lockheed Martin-built GPS III SV03 satellite was encapsulated within a SpaceX payload fairing at Astrotech on June 21 in preparation for its upcoming launch on June 30 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
Encapsulation of the satellite within the payload fairing protects the satellite against the impact of dynamic pressure and aerodynamic heating during its harrowing journey through the earth’s atmosphere, and supports the ability to communicate with the satellite until separation from the launch vehicle on-orbit.
Originally scheduled to launch on April 29, the GPS III-3 mission took a 60-day tactical pause in order to implement new health and safety measures to protect launch and operations crew during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This pause allowed SMC to design and implement these measures in collaboration with contractor and launch provider partners as well as medical professionals.
There were no impacts to the readiness and availability of the GPS constellation, which remains healthy. The impact to cost and launch schedule was minimal.
GPS III SV03 is now ready to be rolled out to its pad at Space Launch Complex-40, where it will be mated with the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. It is scheduled for launch on June 30. The 15-minute launch window opens at 3:55 p.m. EDT.
SV03 will join the current 31-satellite operational constellation to continue to provide the “gold standard” in positioning, navigation, and timing services for more than four billion users worldwide.
As the U.S. enters a new era with space as a warfighting domain, SMC is re-architecting efforts which will manage other significant U.S. acquisition agility initiatives to drive innovation within the space enterprise and speed the delivery of new capabilities to warfighters.
Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Photo credit: NASA