On Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023 at 12:24 UTC (07:24 a.m. EST) SpaceX successfully launched the satellite “Amelia Earhart” in the context of the GPS III Mission, for the United State Space Force.
As can be guessed from the initials SV06, the satellite is the sixth of a new constellation produced by Lockheed Martin for the USSF. This deployment successfully concludes the 4th launch of 2023 for SpaceX.
The great confidence gained by SpaceX
The United State Space Force has placed great trust in SpaceX to put their satellite on a previously used launcher. In fact, as we know, the Falcon 9 boosters are used multiple times to allow for rapid reusability, great reliability but most importantly extremely low cost when compared to classic launchers.
Furthermore, the military tends to be much more reluctant given the level of security and confidentiality they have to keep. So initially, with the first launches of their satellites entrusted to SpaceX, the USSF required only new boosters to be used, but over time spaceX has precisely proven that their reused boosters were also extremely reliable.
Hence, the USSF has also placed a lot of trust in the Falcon 9 launchers: in fact, for their latest launches, they allowed refurbished boosters to be used, even though they still took a long time to validate them.
Modern, safe and with new technologies
Lockheed Martin is building and delivering this new generation of satellites with incredible enhancements, including:
- three times better accuracy;
- up to eight times improved anti-jamming functionality;
- new civilian L1C signal, compatible with international global navigation satellite systems, such as Galileo in Europe, to improve connectivity for civilian users;
- modular design that allows new technologies and capabilities to be added in the future, to better address changing mission needs and emerging threats.
GPS III’s main purpose is to provide positioning signal, navigation signal and timing (PNT).
More GPS satellites serving everyone
Currently, there are already several of these previous-generation satellites in orbit. This is due to the fact that they last much longer than expected: instead of replacing them, it is preferred to add new ones. The previous ones continue to provide outstanding services; it would be a waste to stop using them.
Despite this, there is a great need to expand the fleet with modern technologies. But why so many GPS satellites?
Lockheed Martin says GPS has become a very critical national infrastructure and there is great need to make up for this shortfall. Global dependence on GPS PNT signals is high, with over 4 billion users worldwide. In the United States alone, these signals provide economic benefits of $300 billion annually.
In addition, being owned and operated by the U.S. Air Force and Space Force, GPS is a valuable tool for warfighters, enabling them to complete missions accurately and safely.
GPS offers high accuracy between 30 and 500 cm, with even higher accuracy for the U.S. Department of Defense, even though the satellites are in orbits at an altitude of 20.180 km. The GPS Block III SV06 Satellite, like all others in its class, was named in honor of a prominent historical figure, Amelia Earhart, an American aviatrix.
The Falcon 9 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, USA. The Falcon 9 Block 5 Booster B1077, previously used only once for the Crew-5 Mission with the Dragon Capsule, has been reused for this launch. Both the first stage and the two fairings have been recovered while the satellite was placed in a medium earth orbit (MEO).