Maiden Next-Gen USAF GPS Satellite Launch by SpaceX Targets Dec. 18, VP Pence Visits

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.  Scheduled for SpaceX Falcon 9 launch
on Dec. 18, 2018. Credit: Lockheed Martin

Ken Kremer  SpaceUpClose.com &
RocketSTEM
–17 December 2018


KENNEDY
SPACE CENTER, FL –  Liftoff of the maiden
next generation
Global Positioning System (GPS) III satellite for
the United States Air Force on a brand new SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is on target for
Tuesday morning, Dec. 18 from the Florida Space Coast. On top of that Vice President
Mike Pence is flying in from Washington, D.C. on a special trip to witness the
launch first hand.



And the weather outlook is quite favorable – currently
forecast as 90% GO !!



Blastoff of the next and last SpaceX Falcon 9 of
2018 carrying the modernized and advanced GPS III SV01
satellite for the Air Force is slated for blastoff Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 9:11
a.m. EST from Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Air
Force Station, FL.



“Announced at @NASA today
that next Tuesday I’ll head to “The World’s Premier Gateway to Space” at Cape
Canaveral to watch @SpaceX launch the first @LockheedMartin
GPS III satellite – an important step forward as we seek to secure American
leadership in space,” tweeted VP Mike Pence a few days ago during a visit to
NASA Headquarters in D.C.  Pence chairs
the National Space Council. 



Pence
and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson signed a thermal heat shield blanket at Lockheed
Martin’s Denver manufacturing facility in Oct. 2018. 

Technicians begin
encapsulating Lockheed Martin’s GPS III Space Vehicle 01 within a SpaceX
payload fairing at Astrotech Space Operations’ Florida facility on Dec. 7. 2018.
Credit: Lockheed Martin
The massive 5 ton Lockheed Martin-built
GPS III Space Vehicle 01 satellite is the most powerful
Global Positioning
System (
GPS) satellite ever built.   


Artists concept of Lockheed
Martin GPS III SV01 in orbit

It is the first in the $5.8 Billion GPS
III constellation that eventually will include up to 32 satellites counting a
recent $7.2 Billion USAF contract with Lockheed Martin to build an additional 22
GPS III Follow On (GPS IIIF) program
satellites.



This $500 million GPS III SV01 mission
is historic in a number of ways. In addition to being the first in the new
series, it counts as the first
National Security Space (NSS) mission launched
aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station,
Florida.

The
new satellite will also have a much longer design lifetime of 15 years, 25
percent longer than any of the GPS satellites on-orbit today and double the 7.5
year lifetime of the initial GPS series. 



“GPS III SV01 is
the first of an entirely new design of GPS satellite which will help the Air
Force modernize today’s GPS constellation with new technology and advanced
capabilities,” says Lockheed Martin. 

Technicians begin
encapsulating Lockheed Martin’s GPS III Space Vehicle 01 within a SpaceX
payload fairing at Astrotech Space Operations’ Florida facility on Dec. 7. 2018.
Credit: Lockheed Martin
“GPS III has three times better
accuracy and up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities than prior
GPS satellites,” said
Col. Steve Whitney, Director, SMC Global
Positioning Systems Directorate, at a prelaunch media briefing.
 


The Air Force nicknamed the
satellite “Vespucci”
in honor of Amerigo
Vespucci, the Italian explorer for whom the Americas were named. 



“Vespucci will augment the
current 31-satellite constellation to continue to provide the “gold standard”
in positioning, navigation, and timing services for more than four billion
users worldwide,” says the USAF.



The Falcon 9 launch window lasts
for 26 minutes and extends from 9:11 a.m. to 9:37 a.m. EST Dec. 18. 



In case of a delay for any
reason, a backup launch opportunity exists on Wednesday, Dec. 19.  



You
can watch the launch on a SpaceX dedicated webcast that starts about 15 minutes
prior
to the opening of the nominal launch window at:
 



www.spacex.com/webcast

The Falcon 9 will launch in
the upgraded Block 5 version on an expendable mission where the first stage booster
will not be recovered. 



The Air Force wants every
drop of fuel available to hurl the GPS III SV01 satellite to the most efficient
orbit and maximize the amount of on-board fuel available and minimize the
satellites need to utilize the fuel reserves for orbit raising maneuvers.



The GPS III satellites has
a wet weight of 9700 pounds and is the size of an SUV.

“GPS
III’s new L1C civil signal also will make it the first GPS satellite
broadcasting a compatible signal with other international global navigation
satellite systems, like Galileo, improving connectivity for civilian users.”

“The world is
dependent on GPS. More than four billion military, commercial and civilian
users connect with signals generated by GPS satellites every day,” said Johnathon
Caldwell, Lockheed Martin’s Vice President for Navigation Systems. 



“The launch of GPS III
SV01 will be the first step in modernizing the Air Force’s GPS constellation
with the most powerful and resilient GPS satellites ever designed and
built.”

Sporting the roundel, or national insignia of
the U.S. military and the shield of the Space and Missile Systems Center’s
Global Positioning Systems Directorate and its team members, technicians
complete encapsulation of Lockheed Martin’s GPS III Space Vehicle 01 within a
SpaceX payload fairing at Astrotech Space Operations’ Florida facility on Dec.
7, 2018. Credit: Lockheed Martin
Technicians encapsulated the
Lockheed Martin’s GPS III Space Vehicle 01 within a
SpaceX provided payload fairing at the Astrotech Space Operations’ Florida
facility. The work was completed Dec. 7.  



The structure was then rolled to the Cape for integration with the Falcon
9 launch vehicle.  The spacecraft
arrived at the Cape on Aug. 20 from the
$128-million GPS III Processing Facility near
Denver.



After launch it will
undergo 6 to 9 months
of spacecraft checkouts and another
6 to 9 months of combined systems testing with the on-orbit GPS constellation
before its declared operational.



The AF has called up the second GPS III satellite for launch
in 2019. 



Satellites 3 through 8 are in various stages of
construction. 



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



Learn more about the upcoming/recent SpaceX Falcon 9/USAF GPS 3-01, SpaceX Falcon 9/CRS-16
launch to ISS,  NASA missions, ULA Atlas
& Delta launches, SpySats and more at Ken’s upcoming outreach events at Quality Inn Kennedy Space Center, Titusville,
FL, evenings:

Dec
17
: “SpaceX Dragon CRS-16
resupply launch to ISS, SpaceX Falcon GPS 3-01, SpaceX Falcon Heavy &
Falcon 9 launches, upcoming SpaceX Falcon 9 USAF GP3 3-01, NRO & USAF
Spysats, SLS, Orion, Boeing and SpaceX Commercial crew capsules, OSIRIS-Rex,
Juno at Jupiter, InSight Mars lander, Curiosity and Opportunity explore Mars,
NH at Pluto, Kuiper Belt and more,” Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville,
FL, evenings. Photos for sale



GPS Mission patch


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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