SpaceX And The Launch Of GPSIII To Help US National Security

The success of Space X launching the GPS III was momentous for Elon Musk coming into January 2019. This was America’s first National Security Space mission as explained by the U.S. military. The Falcon 9 rocket blasted off 8.51 am Sunday 23rd December 2018 from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The rocket was carrying a GPS satellite that was approximately $US500 million ($A711 million) which was built by Lockheed Martin. The solar powered vehicle which is nicknamed “Vespucci” to honour the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, will be Lockheed Martin’s first series of next-generation GPS satellites. This will ensure that there is up to three times better accuracy, up to 8 times improved anti-jamming capabilities, an extended spacecraft life of up to 15 years and the first GPS satellite which will broadcast signal compatible with other international global navigation systems. This mission took significant time and preparation to achieve success. It included four previous launch attempts which were unsuccessful due to weather and technical issues.

Mike Pence tweeted on December 13 that “…“The World’s Premier Gateway to Space” at Cape Canaveral to watch @SpaceX launch the first @LockheedMartin GPS III satellite – an important step forward as we seek to secure American leadership in space,” Pence’s tweet came after NASA’s administrator Jim Bridenstine and others congregated to discuss the US future of space travel, human exploration of Mars and the moon. The international competition surrounding space exploration has caused states to achieve incredible goals progressing humankind in space. This can be specifically seen between the China and US in relation to rocket launches.

The success of Space X and others like Sir Richard Branson, provide historic and motivational stories of how the work of entrepreneurs can truly impact an entire nation. SpaceX had a mission to launch the most orbital missions in 2018 globally and although China won by launching 35 successful rockets; the US followed close behind. However, in 2018, SpaceX broke its own record for launching the most orbital rocket launches by a single company in one year as it launched 20 commercial rockets with more on the way. Therefore, this has been a very successful year for Elon Musk. This title was previously held by United Launch Alliance who launched 16 commercial rockets in 2009. However, Musk’s missions were tens of millions of dollars cheaper than ULA’s. The successful missions sent dozens of payloads into orbit, debuted two Starlink internet satellites and even shot a Tesla past the orbit of Mars.

The GPS III will replace an aging on-orbit GPS spacecraft and therefore will significantly progress satellite navigation accuracy. It will improve the GPS ability to resist jammed signals which will disable the systems abilities. The US existing GPS satellite constellation began operating in orbit in 1995 and this upgrade will significantly improve military opportunities. The US Air Force plan to buy up to 32 GPS III satellites, all of which will have an extended design life and new civil signal. The GPS III program is part of an PNT initiative that upgrades positioning, navigation and timing. One of the biggest practical uses of the GPS IIIA-01 launch is its use in improving global positioning coverage for the US military. The GPS III constellation will have approximately 500 times the transmission power of the current GPS system, however it will also have faster clock update rates.

This marks a positive step for America’s GPS systems, as well as the possibilities for space technology impacting national security. The enhanced reliability and anti-jam features of the GPS III satellites will benefit the US military forces as it relies on satellite-guided munitions. It will also improve the capabilities of civilian agencies and private businesses. With the next GPS III satellite expected to take off in the middle of 2019, Space X is wasting no time with their progress. The successful launch of Falcon 9 was a massive triumph for Space X, a private rocket company, which has made history by making its way into the lucrative market for military space launches. For an industry which has been consistently dominated by Lockheed and Boeing, Musk’s successful year for rocket launches ended with a massive conquest.




Aisha Parker