Falcon 9 rocket carries GPS III satellite to MEO

By Michael Marrow / January 18, 2023 at 12:49 PM

The Space Force successfully launched another Global Positioning System III-series satellite from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, FL, the morning of Jan. 18 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Manufactured by Lockheed Martin, the GPS III satellites provide up to three times greater accuracy and an eightfold increase in anti-jamming capabilities compared to earlier systems, Space Systems Command said in a press release.

“With the GPS III SV06 launch, GPS has accomplished another step towards Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT)’s overall mission of modernizing capabilities for our civilians and military users while maintaining the performance and resiliency of our existing architecture,” Program Executive Officer for Military Communications & PNT Directorate Cordell DeLaPena Jr. said in the release.

The rocket carrying the satellite was reused from a previous National Aeronautics and Space Administration mission, and SSC said the rocket was recovered and will be refurbished for a future launch.

Four more GPS III satellites remain to join the medium-earth orbit constellation, which now numbers 32, following the launch of the sixth III-series vehicle today. A Lockheed official previously said in an interview with Inside Defense that the company was planning to finish construction of the last two satellites in the first quarter of 2023.

Other capabilities -- such as the addition of the L1C civil signal that offers compatibility with international satellite navigation systems -- will depend on the launch of GPS IIIF satellites, the follow-on space vehicles that are also being manufactured by Lockheed.

The Space Force is looking to launch the IIIF satellites beginning in 2026, though risk remains that deployment of its ground control segment could be delayed.