Launched on June 17, 2021, the GPS III Space Vehicle 05 (GPS III SV05) is the latest, next-generation, GPS III satellite, a warfighting system owned and operated by the U.S. Space Force (USSF) and was built by Lockheed Martin.
GPS III SV05 is the 24th Military Code (M-Code) signal-enabled, GPS space vehicle on-orbit, completing the constellation’s baseline requirement to provide the nation’s military forces a more-secure, harder-to-jam and spoof GPS signal.
GPS III satellites provide significant capability advancements over earlier-designed GPS satellites on orbit, including:
- Three times better accuracy
- Up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities
- A new L1C civil signal, which is compatible with international global navigation satellite systems, like Europe’s Galileo, to improve civilian user connectivity.
About 90 minutes after a 12:09 p.m. ET liftoff from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, in Florida, U.S. Space Force and Lockheed Martin engineers at the company’s Denver GPS III Launch & Checkout Operations Center declared GPS III SV05 separated from its SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and “flying” under their control.
In the coming days, GPS III SV05’s onboard liquid apogee engine will continue to propel the satellite toward its operational orbit. After it arrives, engineers will send the satellite commands to deploy its solar arrays and antennas and prepare GPS III SV05 for handover to Space Operations Command.
Part of U.S. critical national infrastructure, GPS drives an estimated $300 billion in annual economic benefits and is responsible for $1.4 trillion since its inception. Globally, more than 4 billion military, civil and commercial users depend on GPS’ positioning, navigation and timing signals.
Lockheed Martin is part of the GPS III team led by the Space Production Corps Medium Earth Orbit Division at the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base. The GPS Operational Control Segment sustainment is managed by the Enterprise Corps, GPS Sustainment Division at Peterson Air Force Base. The 2nd Space Operations Squadron, at Schriever Air Force Base, manages and operates the GPS constellation for both civil and military users.
“With GPS III SV05, we continue our focus on rapidly fielding innovative capabilities for the Space Force’s Positioning, Navigation and Timing Mission,” said Tonya Ladwig, Lockheed Martin vice president for Navigation Systems. “With each satellite we bring to orbit, we help the U.S. Space Force to modernize the GPS constellation’s technology and to imagine future capability. Our next three satellites, GPS III SV06, SV07 and SV08, are already complete and just waiting for a launch date.“
The earlier, launch info release …
The flight — the 19th launch this year for SpaceX and its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket — lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station during a 15-minute window that opened at 12:09 p.m. EST (1609 GMT). Perched atop the rocket is the GPS III-SV05 satellite, which was built by Lockheed Martin.
This is the fifth launch of an upgraded, next-generation, GPS III satellite to date. Built by Lockheed Martin in Colorado, these upgraded GPS satellites are some of the most sophisticated spacecraft ever built. They’re equipped with anti-jamming capabilities that are more robust than previous iterations and more powerful signals for increased accuracy, according to Lockheed Martin representatives.
This launch featured the fifth in a series of ten, upgraded, GPS III satellites for the military that will join the current constellation of satellites already on-orbit. These crucial satellites help to provide positioning, navigation and timing services for more than four billion users worldwide. GPS III-SV05 will replace an aging predecessor that was launched two decades ago.
Last year, Space Force officials announced that the U.S. military had granted SpaceX permission to launch national security payloads on previously flown rockets. That news followed on the heels of another recent decision to allow SpaceX to recover the first stages of Falcon 9 boosters used on national security missions, something that was previously not allowed.
This mission was the first to fly on a veteran Falcon 9. After ferrying the GPS satellite into space, the rocket will then land back on Earth on a floating platform at sea, the “Just Read the Instructions” droneship.
The star of this mission is a previously flown Falcon 9 first stage, known as B1062 to SpaceX. This first stage is embarking on its second mission, after lifting another GPS satellite last year.
The current GPS constellation is composed 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. This latest generation of GPS satellite boasts a 15 year design life, which is 25 percent longer than the previous generation of GPS satellites on-orbit.
GPS III brings new capabilities to users, such as the new L1C civilian signal that opens the window for future interoperability with international satellite navigation systems.
“We are building on the successful booster recoveries of GPS III-3 and GPS III-4 last year and making a historic step with the GPS III-5 mission using a previously flown vehicle,” said Colonel Robert Bongiovi, Launch Enterprise director. “The affordability and flexibility provided with SpaceX’s reused launch vehicles open additional opportunities for future NSSL missions and provide our nation’s warfighters with the advanced capabilities they need.”
“The GPS III program office, in partnership with our contract teammate,s continues to push the envelope on the capabilities they deliver to users, both civil and military around the globe,” said Mr. Cordell DeLaPena, Jr., U.S. Space Force program executive office for Space Production. “Our latest GPS III satellites’ nearly 70 percent digital payload provides the Space Force with greater operational flexibility, as well as cutting edge capabilities while continuing to support legacy users. Fueled off the success of our latest GPS III SV04 launch, I look forward to the successful launch of SV05 just 7 months later.”
“Our GPS program team overcame numerous challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic to safely and successfully launch GPS III SV04. Their resilience and ingenuity validated a new concept of operations which has paved the way for the launch of GPS III SV05 just seven months later,” said Colonel Edward Byrne, MEO Space Systems Division chief. “SV05 will continue to modernize our GPS constellation by increasing our capabilities with advanced features for both our civil and military users across the world.”
The Space and Missile Systems Center, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California, is the U.S. Space Force’s center of acquisition excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. Its portfolio includes the development of advanced space and launch capability and systems, global positioning systems, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control networks, space-based infrared systems, and space situational awareness capabilities.