Fifth Try Fabulous as SpaceX Falcon 9 Finally Flies to Orbit With Maiden Advanced Air Force GPS III Satellite: Photos

A Falcon 9 carrying GPS III SV01 lifts off
from Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, Dec.
23, 2018 at 8:51 a.m. EST. The first GPS III to be launched will join the
current GPS constellation comprised of 31 operational spacecraft. GPS
satellites operate in medium earth orbit at an altitude of approximately 20,200
km (12,550 miles) in six planes.

Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Ken Kremer  SpaceUpClose.com &
RocketSTEM
–23 December 2018


CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, FL – After almost a week of delays due to technical and weather reasons Christmas finally came as the
fifth launch attempt proved to be fabulous as a SpaceX Falcon 9 finally flew to
orbit carrying the first in the advanced new GPS III series of satellites Sunday
morning, Dec 23 from the Florida Space Coast for the U.S. Air Force.

Picture perfect skies greeted the Falcon 9 and spectators who
waited out four prior scrubs and witnessed a spectacular launch – the last of
the year for both SpaceX and America’s premier spaceport.



The expendable 23 story tall Falcon 9 rocket was successfully launched
by SpaceX, the U.S. Air Force and its mission partners carrying the first
Global Positioning Systems (GPS) III satellite Dec. 23 at 8:51 a.m. EST (14:51
UTC), 5:51 a.m. Pacific, from Space Launch Complex-40
at Cape
Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.



The rocket rumbled to life on the
ignition of all nine first stage Merlin 1D engines fueled by liquid oxygen (LOX)
and highly refined RP-1 kerosene. 



UpClose photo showing
ignition of all 9 Merlin 1D first stage engines from
Falcon 9 lift off carrying GPS III SV01 to MEO from Space Launch
Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, Dec. 23, 2018 at 8:51
a.m. EST.
Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Clear blue skies offered a stunning
view of the rocket soaring skywards for several minutes as it arced over
eastwards towards the African continent as it performed flawlessly on SpaceX’s
21st launch of 2018.



Check out
our Space UpClose eyewitness gallery of imagery of the launch as well as prelaunch
imagery taken of the Falcon 9 standing tall at pad 40 during our media remote camera
setups.



Click back here as the gallery grows! 
A Falcon 9 carrying GPS III SV01 lifts off
from Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, Dec.
23, 2018 at 8:51 a.m. EST. The first GPS III to be launched will join the current
GPS constellation comprised of 31 operational spacecraft.
Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com
Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

The launch marked SpaceX’s 21st mission of 2018.


From
the Air Force:



The Lockheed
Martin-built satellite, known as “Vespucci,” in honor of Amerigo Vespucci, the
Italian explorer for whom the Americas were named, was carried to orbit aboard
a Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) Falcon 9 Evolved
Expendable Launch Vehicle. 



“Launch is always a monumental event, and especially so since this is the first
GPS satellite of its generation launched on SpaceX’s first National Security
Space mission. As more GPS III satellites join the constellation, it will bring
better service at a lower cost to a technology that is now fully woven into the
fabric of any modern civilization,” said Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, commander
of the Space and Missile Systems Center and Air Force program executive officer
for Space. 



“It keeps GPS the gold standard for positioning, navigation, and
timing information, giving assured access when and where it matters. This event
was a capstone, but it doesn’t mean we’re done. We’re going to run a series of
procedures for checkout and test to ensure everything on Vespucci functions as
it was designed.” 



GPS III’s “Vespucci” separated from its upper stage approximately 2 hours after
launch. Engineers and operators at Lockheed Martin’s Waterton facility will now
begin on-orbit checkout and tests which are estimated to complete in six
months. Operational use is expected to begin in about a year.



A Falcon 9 carrying GPS III SV01 lifts off
from Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, Dec.
23, 2018 at 8:51 a.m. EST. The first GPS III to be launched will join the current
GPS constellation comprised of 31 operational spacecraft.
Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

“Today’s launch could not have
succeeded without the teamwork of dedicated professionals. I’m extremely proud
of their accomplishment.” stated Col. Steve Whitney, director of the GPS
Directorate. “Today’s launch is the beginning of the GPS III era, bringing
greater capabilities for our military and civilian users worldwide.”  

Technicians prepare to encapsulate Lockheed
Martin’s GPS III Space Vehicle 01 within a SpaceX payload fairing at Astrotech
Space Operations’ Florida facility on Dec. 7. 
2018. Scheduled for SpaceX Falcon 9 launch on Dec. 23, 2018.  Credit: Lockheed Martin

Vespucci will be vectored to augment the current GPS constellation
comprised of 31 operational spacecraft. GPS satellites operate in medium earth
orbit at an altitude of approximately 20,200 km (12,550 miles) in six planes.
Each satellite circles the earth twice per day. GPS provides the “Gold
Standard” of position, navigation, and timing services for billions of users
worldwide. GPS III, the newest generation of GPS satellites. It brings new
capabilities to users, including three times greater accuracy, and up to eight
times improved anti-jamming capabilities.

“The first GPS III launch marks
a significant milestone for the GPS constellation as well as our partnership
with SpaceX,” said Col. Robert Bongiovi, SMC Launch Enterprise director. “This
launch demonstrated the successful teamwork and cooperation amongst all mission
partners to deliver the capabilities our warfighter demands. I’m proud of my
team and look forward to our additional National Security Space missions with
SpaceX.”   

The GPS III Vespucci
team is led by the SMC’s Global Positioning Systems Directorate, located at Los
Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California. Lockheed Martin Space Systems
Corporation is the prime satellite vehicle contractor. The launch was led by
Space and Missile Systems Center’s Launch Enterprise Directorate, and was on
the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle at Cape Canaveral AFS. Air Force Space
Command’s 50th Space Wing and 2nd Space Operations Squadron operates the GPS
constellation from Schriever AFB, Colorado.

SMC is the U.S. Air Force’s
center of acquisition excellence for acquiring and developing military space
systems. Its portfolio includes the GPS, military satellite communications,
defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite
control networks, space based infrared systems and space situational awareness
capabilities.

Watch for Ken’s continuing
onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman
and more space and mission reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape
Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida and Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science
and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter
@ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com

Dr. Kremer is a research scientist,
journalist and photographer based in the KSC area.

………….

Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events





Up Close view of nose cone
atop SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket poised for launch now reset for Dec. 17 for liftoff
on
GPS III SV01 mission for
the US Air Force
from Space
Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL, on Dec. 19, 2018.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com
Sunset at pad 40 awaiting
sunrise and SpaceX Falcon 9 launch of
GPS III SV01
mission for the US Air Force
from Cape
Canaveral Air Force Station, FL, on Dec. 23, 2018.  Credit: Ken
Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com






Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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