A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket propelled a third-generation global positioning system navigation satellite into orbit on Thursday during the first launch of a national security payload using a previously flown booster. Program officials say the move will save $ 64.5 million over three missions.
The nine engines on the first stage of the rocket woke up on time at 12:09 a.m. EDT, pushing the 229-foot-high rocket away from pad 40 of the Cape Canaveral space station.
After propelling the Falcon 9 out of the thick lower atmosphere, the first stage collapsed and headed for landing on a SpaceX drone parked in the Atlantic Ocean. Onboard cameras provided spectacular views as the thruster plunged towards the ground, marking SpaceX’s 66th successful recovery at sea and its 88th overall.
The scene first flew last November to launch the previous GPS-3 navigation satellite, the fourth of 10 being built by Lockheed Martin for the US Space Force. While Thursday’s flight marked SpaceX’s fourth national security space launch, it was the first to use a previously stolen first stage.
“In preparation for this first event, we have worked closely with SpaceX to understand the refurbishment processes and are confident this rocket is ready for its next flight,” Walter Lauderdale, deputy mission director for the company of launch of the Space and Missile Center. , told reporters before takeoff.
Space Force officials said the fourth, fifth and sixth GPS-3 satellites were covered by a single contract that ultimately reflected a savings of $ 64.5 million through the recovery and reuse of the first stage.
With the first stage safe on the droneship, the second stage of the Falcon 9 continued to climb into orbit. A second engine running an hour later completed the ascent, paving the way for the deployment of the fifth GPS-3 satellite an hour and a half after takeoff. The new satellite will replace an earlier model launched in 2004.
Lockheed Martin is building 10 GPS-3 satellites for the Space Force and is under contract to build 22 advanced GPS-3 navigation beacons to modernize the entire constellation with state-of-the-art components.
The GPS system is based on the synchronization signals of ultra-precise atomic clocks. With more than two dozen operational GPS satellites in multiple orbital planes, at least four are above the horizon anywhere on Earth. The synchronization and position signals from the satellites allow receivers to calculate the position, altitude and speed of a user.
GPS receivers are embedded in an ever-growing number of devices, including smartphones, cars, trucks, airplanes, ships at sea, and weapon systems deployed by the military.
“Today’s constellation of GPS satellites, with its oldest satellites launched in the late 1990s or early 2000s, continue to provide very valuable services,” said Tonya Ladwig, vice president of Lockheed Martin. “But it needs new technology and modernized capabilities to meet the challenges of the future.
“It’s not an upgrade,” she said of the GPS-3 family. “We have developed a whole new concept of satellite. GPS-3 is now the most powerful and durable GPS satellite ever. We offer three times the accuracy of existing satellites in the constellation and have eight times the anti-jamming capabilities.
The GPS-3 satellites also feature improved civilian signals, compatibility with other satellite navigation systems and enhanced search and rescue capabilities, as well as a more accurate and jam-proof military channel.
“GPS has grown to become a part of our critical national infrastructure,” Ladwig said. “Our financial markets, our transportation systems, our utilities, the ridesharing industry, and our agriculture and construction industries all depend on the accuracy of navigation and the timing of GPS.”
Over 4 billion users worldwide use the precise position and timing signals of GPS satellites to provide directions, tracking and many other services.
“In the United States alone, GPS is estimated to generate over $ 300 billion in annual economic benefits,” Ladwig said. “This represents more than $ 1.4 trillion since its inception.”