SpaceX’s fourth attempt in a week after technical and weather delays – would be a significant victory for Musk’s rocket company, which has spent years trying to break into the lucrative market for military space launches long-dominated by Lockheed and Boeing Co. SpaceX sued the US Air Force in 2014 in protest over the military’s award of a multibillion-dollar, non-compete contract for 36 rocket launches to United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Boeing and Lockheed. A Falcon 9 rocket carrying a roughly $ 500 million GPS satellite built by Lockheed Martin Corp was due to blast off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral around 9 a. m. ( 1400 GMT ), privately held SpaceX said. The next year, SpaceX won an $ 83 million Air Force contract to launch the GPS III satellite, which will have a lifespan of 15 years.
The launch would be the first of 32 satellites in production by Lockheed under contracts worth a combined $ 12.6 billion for the Air Force GPS III program, Lockheed spokesman Chip Eschenfelder said.
The next GPS III satellite is due to launch in mid-2019, Eschenfelder said, while subsequent satellites undergo testing in the company’s Colorado processing facility. The launch was originally scheduled for 2014 but has been hobbled by production delays, the Air Force said. Air Force spokesman William Russell said: “Once fully operational, this latest generation of GPS satellites will bring new capabilities to users, including three times greater accuracy and up to eight times the anti-jamming capabilities”.
It would mark SpaceX’s first so-called National Security Space mission, as defined by the U. S. military, SpaceX said. SpaceX has launched a next-generation GPS satellite for the US Air Force after almost a week of delays for its Falcon 9 rocket. It is the first time Elon Musk’s private space firm has launched a satellite for the US military as part of an $ 83 m ( £ 65 m ) contract with the air force. File photo of a Falcon 9 first stage booster landing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station following a launch to resupply the International Space Station.
Lockheed Martin is under contract to build up to 32 GPS III satellites, beginning with a block of 10 spacecraft planned for launch through the early-to-mid-2020s, and followed by a batch of up to 22 follow-on GPS 3F satellites scheduled to launch beginning in 2026. Lockheed Martin is building the new satellites outside Denver. But some of their most highly touted features will not be fully available until 2022 or later because of problems in a companion program to develop a new ground control system for the satellites, government auditors said.
The Air Force stated that the T-X program originally was to cost about $ 19.7 billion, and that Boeing’s bid shaved $ 10 billion off that amount. “This new aircraft will provide the advanced training capabilities we need to increase the lethality and effectiveness of future Air Force pilots”, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said in the news release. The Air Force controls a constellation of 31 GPS satellites from a high-security complex at Schriever Air Force Base outside Colorado Springs.
Aside from Blue Origin, the two other companies that won a contract with the Air Force are United Launch Alliance ( for its Vulcan-Centaur booster ) and Northrop Grumman ( for its OmegA launch system ). Though these singletons are extremely capable, they’re expensive, typically costing $ 1 billion or more to build, launch and operate.
These craft will be incredibly cheap compared to the current crop: The goal is get each satellite built and launched for about $ 6 million, said Paul “Rusty” Thomas, of the Tactical Technology Office at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Blackjack program manager.
It’s the first of 32 planned GPS III satellites that will replace older ones now in orbit. GPS is best known for its widespread civilian applications, from navigation to time-stamping bank transactions. The Air Force estimates that 4 billion people worldwide use the system. But it was developed by the U. S. military, which still designs, launches and operates the system. The program is months behind schedule, and the Government Accountability Office says costs have increased.
A consortium of Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries ( KAI ) submitted a proposal Thursday to bid on a $ 16 billion ( 18 trillion won ) jet project by the United States Air Force. In recent years, the company has gone all-out to sell its Surion helicopters to other countries, as part of its efforts to become a top-tier aircraft and aerospace parts manufacturer. Cowen Washington Research Group is less optimistic that Trump’s call for a Space Force will dramatically boost space spending.
The Vulcan follows ULA’s Atlas V and is designed to carry over 4,000 more cubic feet of payload. The Amazon founder’s Blue Origin has won a contract to supply engines for United Launch Alliance, according to a Thursday report. The second Lockheed Martin – built GPS III satellite has received the “available for launch” designation from the U. S. Air Force and is now expected to lift off in 2019.
“The world is dependent on GPS, from getting directions to getting cash from an ATM machine or trading on the stock exchange” , Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said in a statement. “With two GPS III satellites now ready for launch, and the third GPS III expected to be ready by early next year, we ‘re building strong momentum” , said Johnathon Caldwell, program manager for navigation systems at Lockheed.
The satellite will also be the first GPS craft to be attached to its launcher horizontally.