SpaceX enjoys another successful launch that took the U.S. Air Force’s third-generation navigation satellite up for the Global Positioning System (GPS). This is SpaceX’s 11th launch this year. The GPS III SV02 will join GPS III SV01 (launched December 2018), GPS III SV02 (launched July 2019) and other operational GPS satellites already in orbit. GPS delivers positioning, navigation and timing services supporting the United States and other operations. GPS III SV03 will help bring higher power and more accurate signals that are harder to jam.
Approximately nine minutes after liftoff, the first stage booster landed on the deck of the drone ship. SpaceX has, to-date, had more than 50 successful catches.
“The NSSL program’s number one priority is to achieve mission success on each and every National Security Space launch,” said Col. Robert Bongiovi, Launch Enterprise director. “We also strive to procure affordable launch services that maintain assured access to space for the Nation. Our goal with GPS III SV03 was to maintain our mission assurance record, while exploring unique cost saving opportunities like recovering a booster to deliver the capabilities our warfighters demand.”
“The GPS III program brings a new standard of excellence for the entire space community. Our production team and contract partners have developed an indispensable tool that is available to military and civil users around the world.” said Cordell DeLaPena, program executive officer for SMC’s Space Production Corps. “Our team will continue to advance the launch campaign for the remaining space vehicles and I anticipate the successful launch of SV03 on the Falcon 9.”
This flight was dedicated in memory and in honor of Colonel Thomas G. Falzarano’s 26 year dedicated history Commander of Space Force who died unexpectedly.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss for our Air and Space Force family,” said Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, chief of space operations for the U.S. Space Force. “[Falzarano] was an incredible leader, mentor and friend who will be remembered for his warm personality and dedicated service to our nation. Our heartfelt condolences and prayers go out to his family, friends and all members of the 21st Space Wing.”
Falzarano took command of the 21st in July 2019. He also served as the installation commander for Peterson and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station in Colorado, as well as overseeing base support activities for Clear Air Force Station, Alaska; Cavalier Air Force Station, North Dakota; Cape Cod Air Force Station, Massachusetts; and Thule Air Base, Greenland, according to his official biography.
A 1994 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Falzarano was previously the executive officer for Air Force Space Command at Peterson. Members of Air Force Space Command are now technically assigned to the Space Force, following President Donald Trump’s signing of the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
GPS III SV03 will 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 last generation 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 space systems division is filled with exceptional, highly talented team members focused on delivering the next generation of GPS satellites. They are extremely motivated and resourceful, and had to overcome numerous challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic to successfully get us into a position where we can safely launch. I couldn’t have asked for a better team,” said Col. Edward Byrne, MEO Space Systems Division chief. “SV03 is set to join the first two GPS III satellites as we continue our journey to modernize the constellation.”
GPS III satellite signals are more accurate and more powerful than previous generations, providing improved performance for civilian and military users. SV03 will add another military code (M-Code) capable satellite as the team continues to modernize the GPS fleet. M-Code will provide more accurate military signals with improved anti-jamming capabilities for the warfighter. Full M-Code capability is set to rollout with the GPS OCX Block 2 ground segment.