SpaceX has successfully launched the first GPS III satellite for the United States Air Force. The next-generation GPS satellite will improve position, navigation and timing services while offering advanced anti-jam capabilities.
The Falcon 9 carrying the GPS III-2 SOV1 payload launched from Cape Canaveral at 13:51 UTC (08:51 EST). Following a successful launch, the rocket’s upper stage was placed in a coast phase in preparation for a second burn at approximately T+ 69 minutes. Once the second burn is complete, the Falcon 9 upper stage will again coast before payload deployment at T+ 118 minutes.
Due to the requirements of today’s mission, there was no recovery attempt of the Falcon 9 first stage.
The next-generation GPS III global positioning satellite was developed and built by Lockheed Martin. It is the first of the third generation of GPS satellites.
Although both Russia and China have their own global positioning systems, the United State’s GPS is by far the most widely used. The first GPS satellite, GPS I-1 (also referred to as Navstar 1) was launched in February 1978. An additional 9 first generation GPS satellites were launched over the next 7 years. The 10-satellite constellation served as a concept validation and insights gleaned from their development would be implemented in subsequent iterations.
Following the concept validation, the first 9 operational GPS-2 satellites were developed and launched. An additional four GPS-2 variants were created with a total of 68 second-generation satellites launched between 1989 and 2016.
The contract for the third generation of GPS satellites was awarded to Lockheed Martin in September 2016. The US Air Force has contracted the global defence and space titan to produce 10 GPS-3A satellites and 22 GPS-3F satellites. Production and deployment of all 32 satellites are expected before 2030.