The U.S. Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center’s Global Positioning Systems Directorate achieved another major program milestone March 19, successfully delivering the second GPS III Space Vehicle to Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Florida, to begin satellite launch processing.
“The shipment of this second GPS III satellite is once again an excellent representation of the collaborative effort and increasing efficiencies of SMC’s push towards rapid acquisitions and operations of space technologies,” said Lt Gen John F. Thompson, SMC commander and Air Force program executive officer for Space, in a news release Wednesday. “We are adding this second GPS III satellite just seven months from the launch of the inaugural Block III space vehicle, continuing our objective of modernizing GPS.”
The satellite, dubbed “Magellan” in honor of Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese explorer who led the first expedition to circumnavigate the Earth, was transported in a custom container from the Lockheed Martin factory facility in Waterton, Colorado, to the Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville, Florida, by a C-17 Globemaster III originating from Shepherd Field Air National Guard Base, West Virginia, 167th Air Lift Wing. The transportation crew consisted of both contractor and government personnel who oversaw the entire operation to ensure that the conditions of the transport environment would not damage any of the satellite’s sensitive components.
The delivery of SV02 starts the clock for final testing and checkout of the spacecraft prior to launch. Like SV01, this satellite will be processed at the Astrotech Space Operations Florida facility. A government and contractor team will ensure the full functionality of the satellite by performing various tests. Processing this time around will gain efficiencies from lessons learned on SV01. As the spacecraft nears launch, the team will prepare for propellant loading and will encapsulate the satellite into its protective fairing supplied by the launch provider. At the completion of these activities, the satellite will be integrated with the United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Delta IV launch vehicle. It is significant to note that GPS III SV02 will be the final payload to catch a ride on the Delta IV (4, 2) configuration of ULA’s Launch Vehicle.
“As we prepare to launch this second GPS III satellite, we acknowledge a major transition of the GPS III program into a production program,” said Col. Steve Whitney, director of the GPS Directorate. “Having successfully launched our ‘Satellite of Firsts,’ Vespucci, last December; we now look forward to a more regular pace of launches with this one and several more just on the horizon, as we continue to uphold the Gold Standard in space based position, navigation, and timing.”
GPS III SV02 is currently slated to launch in July this year. Once on-orbit it will join the operational constellation of 31 GPS satellites. GPS delivers the world’s gold standard in positioning, navigation, and timing services supporting vital U.S. and allied operations worldwide, underpinning critical financial, transportation, and agricultural infrastructure that billions of users have come to depend on daily, the Space and Missile Systems Center stated.