Late Friday night, SpaceX plans to launch a new upgraded GPS satellite for the US space force, a new spacecraft designed to help modernize existing GPS fleets. It will be the fourth GPS satellite of its kind to be launched in the last three years, and the third will be launched by SpaceX.
The satellite going into this flight is GPS III SV04, which will become one of the 31 primary GPS satellites in Bit Rabbit. The vehicle is part of a new block of the GPS III spacecraft that will gradually replace existing GPS vehicles with buoyancy. Manufactured by Lockheed Martin, these GPS III satellites must be three times more accurate than their predecessors and have more advanced “anti-jamming” capabilities to thwart cybersecurity, thanks to a new M-code signal embedded in the satellite.
GPS III satellites are also designed to be more user-friendly for the general public. The vehicles play a new “civil signal” that allows them to easily communicate with other satellite navigation systems in space, especially the Galileo star of more than two dozen spacecraft in Europe. In this way, any time citizens and commercial users are trying to tap into the system will most likely be at the top of the spacecraft.
It has been a slow process of initiating GPS III replacement, marked by technological and testing delays, as well as delays associated with the COVID-19 epidemic. However, Lockheed Martin says the fifth satellite is ready to go and wait for its launch date. Meanwhile, five more GPS III satellites are in production, according to the company, and three of them are fully built and under investigation. Once the GPS III SV04 is launched, up to 12 percent of the existing GPS Tarosh will include new satellites.
The takeoff of GPS III SV04 from SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is scheduled for 9:43 a.m. ET. SpaceX is using the brand new Falcon 9 rocket for the job, although just last week, Announced by the Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center This will allow SpaceX to launch two future GPS III satellites on the company’s used Falcon 9 rocket. For this launch, SpaceX is still planning to recover the Falcon 9 after takeoff and will try to land a rocket on the company’s floating drone in the Atlantic Ocean.
At the moment, with a 70 percent chance of favorable weather conditions, it looks like a good start. However, as the rocket struggles to launch on the East Coast this week, three different vehicles face delays due to technical issues and weather problems.
Find out tonight if SpaceX can break the series, and get a rocket off the ground this week. Live coverage is scheduled to begin 15 minutes before takeoff.