The U.S. Air Force’s first Lockheed Martin-built GPS III satellite was encapsulated within a SpaceX payload fairing at Astrotech Space Operations on December 7 in preparation for its upcoming launch later this month at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
Encapsulation of the satellite within its payload fairing serves to protect it against the impact of dynamic pressure and aerodynamic heating during its harrowing journey through the earth’s atmosphere, and supports the ability to communicate with the satellite until separation from the launch vehicle on-orbit.
GPS III SV01, known as “Vespucci” in honor of Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian explorer for whom the Americas were named, is now ready to be rolled out to its pad at Space Launch Complex-40 where it will be mated with a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. It is scheduled for launch on December 18.
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. GPS III will deliver capability aligned with the Space and Missile Systems Center’s SMC 2.0 initiative that focuses on innovation to deliver capability to the warfighter.
As the U.S. enters a new era with the declaration of space as a warfighting domain, SMC is re-architecting efforts which will manage other significant U.S. acquisition agility initiatives in order to drive innovation within the space enterprise and speed the delivery of new capabilities to warfighters.
Air Force Space Command’s Space and Missile Systems Center, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California, is the U.S. Air Force’s center of excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. Its portfolio includes the Global Positioning System, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch, range systems, satellite control networks, space-based infrared systems, and space situational awareness capabilities.