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SpaceX GPS navigation satellite launched from Cape Canaveral

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A Falcon 9 rocket launches into space with the fourth and third generation GPS navigation satellite of the U.S. Space Force. Attribution: SpaceX

SpaceX on Thursday launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral using the U.S. Space Force’s latest third – generation Global Positioning System navigation satellite, paving the way for the launch of SpaceX’s first crew of the Dragon space mission later this month.

The GPS navigation payload, which ran more than a month late due to a Falcon 9 engine problem, crashed into the clear autumn sky at 6:24:23 pm on Thursday. EST (2324: 23 GMT).

The 229-foot (70 m) Falcon 9 rocket traveled from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station with 1.7 million pounds of ust power on a track parallel to the U.S. East Coast off the coast of northeastern Florida.

The rocket shut down nine Merlin 1D main engines, and the first stage flew for about two and a half minutes.

When the single Merlin engine on the upper stage puts the GPS satellite into orbit, the Falcon 9’s reusable first stage booster descends 400 miles (630 km) above the Atlantic Ocean in a football field – sized drone. Cape Canaveral.

The second phase of the Falcon 9 was fired twice, to raise the US Space Force’s fourth – generation GPS satellite – the designated GPS3SV04 – to an egg – shaped transfer orbit of approximately 250 miles (400 km) to 12,550 miles (20,200 km). ), 55 ഡിഗ്രി inclination to the equator according to generally available tracking data.

Those figures confirm that the Falcon 9 rocket achieved its mark just 90 minutes after the launch of the Lockheed Martin-built GPS3 SV04 satellite, 90 minutes after liftoff, the SpaceX’s 20th successful mission this year.

Lockheed Martin confirmed in a statement that the team’s teams at the company’s Satellite Control Center near Denver have been in contact with the five-ton GPS spacecraft, which will use the onboard liquid apogee engine to enter a circular orbit several times in the coming days. 12,550 miles from Earth.

The controller will send commands to deploy solar panels and antennas that generate power to the GPS satellite, perform check outs and hand over the spacecraft to the Army’s Space Operations Command.

A Falcon 9 rocket was launched Thursday from Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Attribution: Stephen Clark / Space Travel Now

The GPS3SV04 satellite will join the 31 operating spacecraft on board the GPS, providing location, navigation and time data to millions of military and civilian users around the world, as well as information on cell phones, cars, planes and ships.

Officials expect the new satellite to be checked out and the test program completed within a month, and the GPS3SV04 ready for operation in a few months.

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The GPS 3 program continues to upgrade the U.S. Space Force’s GPS constellation while maintaining the gold standard for location, navigation, and time, ”said Colonel Edward Byrne, head of the Space Force’s Medium Earth Orbit Space Systems division. Missile Systems Center.

The GPS 3-Series satellites are designed for a lifespan of 15 years, improving the seven-and-a-half to 12-year design life of previous generation GPS satellites.

Compared to the Legacy GPS satellites, the GPS 3 satellites are an important step in capacity and reconstruction, ”Byron said. “GPS is a critical aid to the U.S. military and allies, and serves more than 4 billion civilian users worldwide.”

The first of 10 GPS 3-Series satellites launched in December 2018, followed by two GPS 3 space probes in August 2019 and June 30 this year. According to Lockheed Martin, GPS 3 satellites offer three times better accuracy and up to eight times better jamming capabilities than the early GPS spacecraft.

The GPS3 satellites also feature a new L-band civilian signal that is compatible with other international navigation satellite networks, such as the Galileo program in Europe. Combining signals from GPS, Galileo, and other navigation satellites can improve the accuracy of location-based position measurements.

Artist’s idea of ​​a GPS 3 satellite in space. Attribution: Lockheed Martin

In September, Space Force officials announced that they had reached an agreement with SpaceX to launch future GPS3 satellites on Falcon 9 rockets with previously flown boosters. The first stage booster, which flew on the mission on Thursday evening, will be updated and used again for the launch of the next GPS3 satellite in mid-2021, officials said.

The Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, or SMC, signed a deal with SpaceX in September to include a deal to fly the next two GPS satellites, the reused Falcon 9 boosters. The reused Falcon 9 will also launch the first phase of the GPS3 SV06 mission, which is likely to fly in late 2021 or early 2022.

Reconstruction agreements between Space Force and SpaceX allowed the Falcon 9’s first stage booster landing after the pre-June 30 GPS satellite launch. SpaceX also launched its first GPS 3-Series satellite in December 2018, but military officials wanted the launch company to set aside all the Falcon 9 propellants for the launch of that spacecraft, leaving no fuel left for landing and landing.

Earlier this year, the Air Force adjusted the requirements for the next SpaceX launch using the GPS satellite, adjusting the perigee or low point of the target orbit to deploy the GPS payload at a lower altitude. During the June 30 mission, the Falcon 9 rocket ensured that the booster could land, saving the spacecraft several million dollars.

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Factoring changes to allow booster recovery on the four GPS missions, which begin with the June 30 launch, could save $ 52.7 million as a result of updated launch deals between the space force and SpaceX on two GPS missions, rocket reuse from next year, officials said. .

Next year, the GPS3SV05 mission will be the first high-priority national security payload to be launched on a Falcon 9 rocket. Before clearing the GPS3SV05 satellite to be launched on a recycled booster next year, SpaceX officials will review in detail the SpaceX upgrade, rocket reuse measures and policies.

This will help lay the groundwork for launching more national security satellites on Falcon rockets using first-stage boosters.

“This is our journey to see how SpaceX performs a previous hardware upgrade,” said Walt Lauderdale, head of SMC’s Falcon Systems and Operations division and mission director for the GPS3 SV04 countdown and launch. : We will compare it with merit. These boosters study and evaluate all the work they do to get ready to fly again. ”

“So this requires an overview of several different systems, and we need to make sure we are not only the best in this particular booster, but also the hardware that has flown before,” Lauderdale told reporters in a conference call in September.

As the GPS3SV04 satellite enters orbit safely, SpaceX’s next mission will be the first regular Crew Dragon spacecraft launch to the International Space Station on November 14 from an explosion from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA engineers will analyze data from the GPS launch on Thursday night to make sure the Merlin engines are ready to go on the Falcon 9 rocket assigned to the Crew Dragon launch.

On October 2, SpaceX initially attempted to launch the GPS3SV04 satellite, but the engine problem forced Liftoff to make an automatic shutdown two seconds earlier.

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Engineers investigating the October 2 abortion found that two of the rocket’s first nine engines had a tendency to burn a split second earlier than expected. The relief valve check on the gas generators of both engines caused the pressure to increase faster than designed at startup, and the sensors in the engines detected the problem and stopped the countdown.

SpaceX Engineers A masking treatment was identified Two Merlin engines are left unattended due to a countdown that stopped last month. The test found material leading to a valve to relieve pressure in the gas generator in the two engines originally scheduled for the GPS mission.

Hans Koenigman, vice president of build and flight fidelity for SpaceX, said the vent port, which means one-sixteenth of an inch wide, was blocked by strict masking lacquer. Liquid lacquer, similar to red nail polish, is used by a third-party vendor to anodize aluminum engine components for space space.

Lacquer protects some parts during the anodizing treatment process, but the vendor – not identified by officials – must remove the material before sending the components to SpaceX for engine construction.

The gas generator in each Merlin engine directs a turbopamp feeding kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants to the main combustion chamber.

SpaceX replaced two suspicious engines in the first phase of the Falcon 9 for the GPS3SV04 mission, and then conducted test-firing of the rocket on Saturday at Pad 40 at the Cad Canaveral Air Force Station. Thursday gave officials enough confidence to continue the GPS launch countdown.

A review of the Merlin engines across the SpaceX X rocket ship found that the two engines on the Falcon 9 rocket for the crew dragon flight show early startup signatures similar to the engines in the launcher for the GPS mission.

SpaceXX announced last week that it would replace the two engines in the Falcon 9 launcher for the crew dragon mission. Engine Problem Crew Dragon launch delayed from October 31st to November 14th.

Steve Stitch, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Manager, said last week that the agency’s engineers want to review engine data from the GPS launch before clearing the crew dragon for the liftoff later this month.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: Stephen Clark1.

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