The U.S. Space Force’s newest GPS satellite, Space Vehicle 04 (GPS III SV04), has been re-scheduled for launch this Thursday, November 5. A previous launch date of October 2 was scrubbed at T-2 because of a detected anomaly in two of the booster rocket’s nine engines.
Both engines were removed from the rocket, returned to the SpaceX test facility and thoroughly inspected. Reportedly blockage of a 1/16-inch relief valve lay at the root of the electronically detected alarm. The blockage has been removed and the engines — whether new replacements or the same originals has not been announced — returned to Cape Canaveral and re-installed. A test firing on the launchpad on Saturday as part of a pre-flight checkout verified that the engines are functioning properly and ready to go.
This is rocket science.
The Lockheed Martin-built GPS III SV04 is scheduled to launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. A live online feed will begin 20 minutes before the launch and conclude approximately 45 minutes afterward. A simulcast of the broadcast can be viewed at www.spacex.com/launches.
The 15-minute launch window opens at 6:24 p.m. EST, 23:24 UTC, and a backup opportunity is available on Friday, November 6 with a 15-minute backup window opening at 6:20 p.m. EST, 23:20 UTC. Following stage separation, SpaceX will land Falcon 9’s first stage on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. The spacecraft will deploy approximately 1 hour and 29 minutes after liftoff.
“The GPS III program office in partnership with our contract teammates continue to push the envelope on the capabilities they deliver to users, both civil and military around the globe. Our latest GPS III satellites’ nearly 70 percent digital payload provides the U. S. Space Force with greater operational flexibility and cutting edge capabilities while continuing to support legacy users,” said Cordell DeLaPena, Air Force program executive officer for SMC’s Space Production Corps.
GPS III SV03, the third of the newly modernized fleet, launched without incident on June 30. SpaceX and SMC successfully recovered the Falcon 9 booster and plan to re-use it for future National Security Space Launch (NSSL) missions. The booster from Thursday’s GPS III-SV04 launch will also be recovered. Falcon boosters will be re-used for GPS III-SV05 and GPS III-SV06. The boosters can then be recovered a second time, for further re-use.
[A Falcon 9 with GPS III SV 04 encapsulated inside the payload fairing the stands vertical on the pad at Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 40 in preparation for launch. Photo courtesy of SpaceX]