Falcon 9 “delivers the goods” for US Air Force as it launches first GPS III navsat

by | Dec 28, 2018 | Launches, Military space, Satellites, SpaceX

A Falcon 9 launch took place from the Cape Canavaral Air Station in Florida at 1351 GMT on 23 December 2018.  The new GPS IIIA navigation satellite carried will take its place in the 20,000km Medium Earth Orbit constellation, replacing one of the early GPS IIR series satellites which was launched over 20 years ago.

Falcon 9 launches the first GPS IIIA satellite on behalf of the US Air Force. Courtesy: SpaceX

In doing so, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has achieved one of its business targets as it demonstrated to the US Air Force and the US Dept of Defense that, via its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy derivative, it can deliver their satellites reliably.  In doing so it has become a serious competitor to the Boeing-Lockheed Martin United Launch Alliance (ULA) which had a de facto monopoly on US military launches on its Atlas and Delta launch vehicles.

SpaceX used a fully expendable version (using a brand new first stage without legs) of its Falcon 9v1.2 Block 5 for the launch of the first Lockheed Martin-built 3,880kg GPS IIIA series satellite (called GPS IIIA-1. While stating that it is open minded, the US Air Force is yet to be fully convinced that reusable rockets have enough margin to launch its satelites successfully.

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