SpaceX is poised to launch the third GPS III satellite for the United States Space Force today. The 15-minute launch window opens @ 3:55pm ET.— John Kraus ?? (@johnkrausphotos) June 30, 2020
This is a new Falcon 9, ready to fly its first mission & land on one of SpaceX’s ocean-stationed droneships.
??: Me for @SuperclusterHQ pic.twitter.com/GSJi2JEGXB
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket brought the third into orbit on Tuesday, the latest step in an ongoing program to boost performance and reliability for military and civilian users around the world, in a powerful new generation of Global Positioning System navigation satellites.
The new GPS 3 satellites provide "three times better accuracy to the gold standard of position, navigation and timing and up to eight times better anti-jam capabilities than their predecessor," said Col. Edward Byrne, a senior manager for the Medium Earth Orbit programme.
A Falcon 9 rocket making its first flight - SpaceX 's second carrying a GPS 3 satellite - blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's launch complex 40 at 4:10 p.m. EDT, shooting off on a northeasterly trajectory through a partly cloudy sky. Because of the upper level winds, Liftoff came 15 minutes behind schedule, but a final check showed conditions were "go" to launch and the rocket put on a spectacular afternoon show.
Two and a half minutes after liftoff, the nine Merlin engines of the first stage shut down and the stage fell off, flipping around to set up a landing attempt on a droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean several hundred miles downrange. Meanwhile the second stage fired up its single engine to continue climbing into space.
During the first launch of SpaceX 's GPS 3 in December 2018, the California rocket builder made no attempt to recover the first stage based on the weight, trajectory and propellant required for the planned orbit to reach.
But based on a detailed assessment of Falcon 9 performance across all SpaceX flights, mission managers gave the company the go-ahead to try to recover around this time, adjusting the initial orbit of the satellite in exchange for unspecified accommodations that saved "several million dollars" for taxpayers, officials say.
The GPS constellation consists of 31 active satellites at an altitude of about 12,550 miles, positioned in six orbital planes. As seen from every point on Earth, at least four satellites are above the horizon, each broadcasting its orbital location and timing data from ultra-precise atomic clocks.
GPS receivers capture those signals in everything from jet fighter cockpits to smart phones and family car, providing the data needed to calculate the user's position, altitude and speed. The latest-generation GPS 3 satellites feature a variety of upgrades, enhancing position accuracy, providing a stronger signal eight times less susceptible to jamming and boasting an increased lifespan of 15 years.
The satellites also broadcast a signal that is compatible with other global navigation systems , enabling receivers to combine data from multiple constellations to maximize accuracy and availability for an estimated 4 billion users worldwide. "The Global Positioning System has become part of our critical national infrastructure, from transportation to financial markets to energy grids to the rideshare industry," said Tonya Ladwig, Vice President of the Navigation Systems Division, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Satellite Builder.
"GPS 's U.S. economic benefit is estimated to exceed $300 million per year, and $1.4 trillion since its inception. We believe it is worth continuing investment in GPS to upgrade technology and improve its capabilities."