Recovery from a last second, SpaceX successfully shot the same Thursday night, a third-generation Global Positioning System navigation satellite for the US Space Force will be launched into orbit.
The nine Merlin 1D engines in the rocket’s first stage, including two replacement engines, roared at 6:24 PM ET, propelling the slender 229-foot-tall Falcon 9 away from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s pad 40 atop a brilliant jet of flaming exhaust.
The engines seemed to be working flawlessly as the rocket exited the dense lower atmosphere, resulting in a spectacular evening sky spectacle as it traversed an ascending Mars and aligned on a northeastern trajectory parallel to the east coast.
Engines shut down as expected 2 1/2 minutes after take off. The first stage then crashed and headed for a successful landing on an offshore drone as the flight continued with the engine power of the Falcon 9’s single second stage.
The GPS-3 satellite, the fourth in a series of more powerful third-generation navigation stations built by Lockheed Martin, was expected to be deployed approximately 90 minutes after takeoff. Assuming the tests and checkout go well, it will join a global constellation of 31 GPS satellites.
Orbiting in multiple planes, at least four GPS satellites are above the horizon as seen from any point on Earth, transmitting ultra-precise atomic clock signals that enable military and civilian receivers to calculate a user’s precise location, altitude and speed .
“GPS-3 provides three times the accuracy and up to eight times better anti-jamming power over satellites in the existing constellation,” Tonya Ladwig, interim vice president of Lockheed’s Navigation Systems division, told reporters in a recent conference call. Martin. “For those who keep the score, the four most powerful GPS-3 satellites will represent a little better than 12% of the 31 satellites in the constellation, but the number is growing.”
Lockheed is building 10 Block 3 GPS satellites at an average cost of $ 529 million each. The company also holds a contract worth up to $ 7.2 billion for up to 22 even more sophisticated “Follow On” GPS satellites.
An attempt to launch the latest GPS on October 2 ended two seconds before planned takeoff when the Falcon 9’s flight computer detected unusual pressures in the twin-engine first-stage turbopumps.
A detailed analysis revealed that small ventilation lines were clogged with a lacquer-like material used during the manufacture of the machinery that had not been cleaned as intended. A fleet-wide inspection revealed similar problems in a handful of other engines planned for upcoming flights, including two high-priority NASA missions.
The suspicious engines in the GPS rocket were replaced – the other seven were inspected and received health certificates – and all nine were successfully tested against the pad on Saturday.
NASA plans to launch four astronauts to the International Space Station on November 14 aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon ferry. The mission is the first Crew Dragon operational flight after a successfully piloted test flight earlier this year.
Two of the first stage engines of the Falcon 9 destined for the “Crew-1” flight also had to be replaced following the interruption of the GPS. Assuming the data analysis confirms the engine’s good performance on Thursday, NASA should be able to move forward with the long-awaited Crew-1 launch as planned.