FLORIDA (GPS World): After several delays, the first GPS III satellite has successfully deployed from the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 8:51 a.m. EST on Dec. 23. The satellite, built by Lockheed Martin, will serve in space for 15 years.
Ten days following the launch, the satellite will circularize its orbit at an altitude of 12,550 miles to begin a period of checkout and testing that could last up to 18 months, before entering service in the GPS constellation providing navigation and timing signals worldwide.
The satellite, known as GPS III SV01 and nicknamed “Vespucci” after Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, is the first in a new generation of GPS navigation stations designed with improved services and longer lifetimes to ensure the U.S. military-run network remains available to troops, pilots, sailors and the public for decades to come.
“Launch is always a monumental event, and especially so since this is the first GPS satellite of its generation launched on SpaceX’s first national security space mission,” said Lt. Gen. John Thompson, commander of the U.S. Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center and the Air Force’s program executive officer for space. “As more GPS III satellites join the constellation, it will bring better service at a lower cost to a technology that is now fully woven into the fabric of any modern civilization.”