The third Lockheed Martin-built GPS III satellite has started using its liquid propulsion systems to reach its operational orbit and is responding to commands from U.S. Space Force and Lockheed operators.
Lockheed said Tuesday that Space Vehicle 03 launched aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 4:10 p.m. EST and is climbing toward its intended orbit 12,550 miles above Earth.
SV03 separated from the rocket 90 minutes after launch and will undergo on-orbit testing before joining a constellation of 31 working GPS spacecraft, including the Lockheed-built SV01 and SV02 satellites declared operational earlier this year.
GPS III satellites are meant to handle positioning, navigation and timing operations for military as well as commercial and civil users. The satellites feature the L1C civil signal, which is compatible with international satellite networks such as Europe’s Galileo
In a separate announcement, the Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center said that SV03 will also serve as the 22nd satellite integrated with military-code elements designed for advanced anti-jamming functions.
Tonya Ladwig, acting vice president for navigation system at Lockheed, said that operators at the company’s Denver facility will command the vehicle to deploy solar arrays and antennas upon its arrival to orbit in the coming days.
SMC expects to begin operational use of SV03 by August, a year after the launch of the second GPS III satellite.