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Watch our live coverage of the countdown and launch of the GPS 3 SV06 navigation satellite for the U.S. Space Force on January 18 at 7:24 a.m. EST (12:24 GMT) from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Adhere to us on Twitter.

A GPS navigation satellite is scheduled to launch from Florida on SpaceX’s second military launch in three days on Wednesday, strengthening the global positioning and timing network as four more GPS spacecraft are stored at a Lockheed Martin facility in Colorado and will be launched as needed over the coming years.

The sixth satellite in the most recent generation of GPS 3-series satellites, GPS 3 SV06, is scheduled to launch from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Wednesday at 7:10 a.m. EST (1210 GMT). The satellite will be launched into orbit by a Falcon 9 rocket from SpaceX. On Wednesday, the Falcon 9 has a 15-minute window for launch.

Less than three days before to the launch of the new GPS satellite on Wednesday, a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launched from the Kennedy Space Center carrying two military satellites into geosynchronous orbit. According to Space Force authorities, that operation was successful.

The Falcon 9 will launch from Cape Canaveral on Wednesday morning, according to forecasters, with a higher than 90% likelihood of excellent weather.

Officials will monitor the booster recovery area’s downrange wind and water conditions. There is a moderate to high chance that those circumstances won’t be ideal for the first stage to land, which might force SpaceX to postpone the launch.

The GPS 3 SV06 satellite will be launched by a 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in the northeast and will be positioned at the correct height and inclination to attain a final working position in the GPS constellation.
The Falcon 9 will fire its nine kerosene-fueled first stage engines for around two and a half minutes after following a typical launch plan. Approximately eight minutes after liftoff, the rocket will terminate and separate from the Falcon 9’s upper stage, which will then continue into orbit with the GPS satellite. This will initially place the payload into a parking orbit.

A few hundred miles to the east of Charleston, South Carolina, aboard a SpaceX drone ship, the Falcon 9’s first stage booster, designated B1077, will land at roughly the same time. The drone ship will return the booster to Cape Canaveral for maintenance and reuse on a later mission. The booster is scheduled to launch on its second trip into orbit.
Immediately following the upper stage engine’s first run, the payload fairing on top of the Falcon 9 will be jettisoned. After the aeroshells parachute into the ocean, SpaceX has sent a recovery ship into the Atlantic to also recover the two parts of the nose cone for reuse.

The upper stage of the Falcon 9 will restart around 63 minutes into the flight for 44 seconds. The GPS 3 SV06 spacecraft will be propelled into an extended orbit with a maximum altitude of around 12,550 miles (20,200 kilometers) by the robust engine, which produces more than 200,000 pounds of thrust.

At around one hour and 29 minutes after liftoff, the rocket will deploy the GPS satellite once it has entered the communication range of the Space Force’s base stations in Hawaii and California.

The satellite will use its own orbit-raising motor to go into a circular Medium Earth Orbit 12,550 miles above Earth at an inclination of 55 degrees over the next one to two weeks. If everything goes as planned, the new satellite, dubbed “Amelia Earhart” after the aviation pioneer, will be handed over to operators from the Space Force.

The sixth satellite in the Lockheed Martin-produced GPS 3-series is the GPS 3 SV06 spacecraft. The satellite weights 9,595 pounds (4,352 kilograms) in its launch configuration when it is fully filled with propellant, according to Col. Jung Ha, senior materiel leader for the GPS Space Vehicles Acquisition Delta at Space Systems Command.

Ha stated during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday that “the spacecraft is healthy and all systems are go.”

An illustration of the GPS 3 satellite in orbit. Thanks to Lockheed Martin
According to Andre Trotter, vice president of navigation systems at Lockheed Martin, the business has four additional GPS 3-series satellites available for the Space Force to “call up.”

In a pre-launch news conference on Tuesday, Trotter informed the media that “we now have four more GPS satellites in our Colorado facility that are available for launch and are preparing to answer the Space Force’s call.” The Pentagon ordered the first batch of GPS 3 satellites from Lockheed Martin in 2008, and those satellites—numbered GPS 3 SV07 through SV10—are the last ones built.

The United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket is set to blast out with the GPS 3 SV07 satellite in the middle of 2024. It is a contender to launch on ULA’s new Vulcan launch vehicle as the first national security payload.

A contract for $3.6 billion from 2008 covers the construction of the first eight GPS 3 satellites. Later, the military placed an order for two more GPS 3-type satellites. The most current mission, SV05, launched in June 2021, and the first GPS 3 satellite launched in 2018.

Officials from the military were unable to give a precise price for the GPS 3 SV06 spacecraft, although the average price per satellite in the 2008 acquisition came to almost $600 million when adjusted for inflation.
An improvement over the seven and a half year and twelve year design lives of previous-generation GPS satellites is the 15-year life duration of the GPS 3 navigation satellite series. Lockheed Martin claims that compared to earlier GPS spacecraft, the GPS 3 satellites offer up to eight times greater anti-jamming capabilities and three times higher accuracy.

The new L-band civilian signal from the GPS 3 satellites is also compatible with other global navigation satellite systems, such the Galileo project in Europe. The accuracy of measurements taken from space using navigation satellites like GPS, Galileo, and others can be increased.

GPS satellites are used by the US military to guide smart bombs and other types of precision-guided weaponry. To provide positioning for the troops, the network needs a minimum of 24 satellites for global coverage.
In 2018, Lockheed Martin was awarded a second military contract to produce up to 22 more GPS 3F satellites with updated technology. The Space Force has given Lockheed Martin firm orders for the first 10 GPS 3F satellites, which will give the military new capabilities like improved regional protection and even better anti-jamming capabilities, an upgraded search and rescue payload, and a laser retroreflector array to help provide more accurate data on each spacecraft’s location in orbit, information that will translate into more precise position data for users on the ground.

The GPS 3 satellites’ navigation payloads are made by L3Harris Technologies.
For precise landings and in-flight navigation, airplanes use augmented GPS signals, while civilians use the Global Positioning System on their smartphones. Banks time stamp financial transactions using the timing signals from GPS satellites.

GPS has integrated into our vital national infrastructure, according to Trotter.

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