SpaceX has won U.S. military recognition to launch on reusable Balkan boosters

A U.S. military deal with SpaceX has been modified to allow future launches on reusable Falcon 9 boosters, thus saving the United States millions of dollars.

The GPS III satellites, built by Lockheed Martin, are operated by the U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center. The first two GPS III spacecraft were launched on the cost-effective Falcon 9 and the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket.

The wearable SpaceX Falcon 9B1054 booster launches US Air Force GPS III SV01 satellite into orbit on December 23, 2018 during its first and only flight. (SpaceX)

The previous contract was modified to allow Falcon 9 boosters to launch GPS III passengers. In June, a third GPS III vehicle was launched on the Falcon 9 from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida. This is the first time the booster that loaded the GPS III vehicle has been recovered.

Pictured on the return to Port Canaveral after the successful recovery of the SpaceX Falcon 9 Booster P1060 in June 2020. (Richard Angle)

“I’m proud of our partnership with SpaceX, which has successfully negotiated contract changes for the upcoming GPS III missions, saving taxpayers $ 52.7 million, while recording our unprecedented success,” said Dr. Walt Lauderdale, Center for Space and Missile Systems. The head of the operations division said in a statement issued by the U.S. Space Force Center for Space and Missile Systems.

Quinn Shotwell, President and CEO of SpaceX, commented: “We appreciate the effort invested in the U.S. Space Force appraisal, and they are pleased with the benefits of the technology. Our extensive experience in recycling has allowed SpaceX to continue to upgrade its fleet and save significant precious tax dollars on these launches. ”

The new modification of the GPS III launch service agreement not only allows the Falcon 9 boosters to be restored, but also to launch on previously flown boosters. However, this correction will only apply to future launches of the GPS III SV05 and SV06 satellites.

Payload justification with built-in GPS III SV03 integrated with SpaceX Falcon 9 in June 2020. (SpaceX)

Plans to launch a series of GPS III satellites on reusable Balkan 9s began in 2021 during Phase 2 of the launch service agreement. The current contract with the US space force will end with the launch of the GPS III SV06 satellite in 2021. The remaining four GPS III satellites have not yet been awarded Phase 2 contracts, and will be auctioned off by both SpaceX and ULA. .

Upcoming Launch of the GPS III SV04 satellite currently scheduled for Tuesday, September 29 Will use a new Falcon 9 booster (B1062) from SLC-40. The new Falcon 9 did a healthy standard fire test of its nine Merlin 1D engines in the early hours of Friday, September 25th. Later that evening the attached payload was captured by a Twitter user Coliper88 It must be fitted with a Falcon 9 booster from a nearby processing station to Cape Canaveral Air Force Base.

GPS III SV04 is set to launch on Tuesday, September 29 (0155-0210 UTC September 30) at 9:55-10: 10am with a window extending to EDT. The 45th Meteorological Force predicts the weather will be mostly favorable. If 24-hour recycling is required the weather will improve slightly to 80%.

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