The U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s Lockheed Martin-built GPS III Space Vehicle 04 (GPS III SV04) satellite was encapsulated within a SpaceX payload fairing at Astrotech Space Operations Florida facility on September 21 in preparation for its upcoming launch on September 29 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida — the 15-minute launch window opens at 9:55 p.m. EDT.
Encapsulation of the satellite within the payload fairing protects the satellite from 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.
The GPS III-4 mission was originally scheduled for launch on July 15. With the dynamic situation presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the program office took a 60 day tactical pause to maximize the safety and health of all team members involved while they implemented a plan in collaboration with medical professionals and mission partners to mitigate risk.
Now that the new concept of operations has been validated during the successful launch of GPS III SV03, the program is ready to “quick turn” the launch of GPS III SV04 only three months later.
GPS III SV04 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.