They say the third time’s the charm, and Hawthorne-based SpaceX is hoping that after two delayed rocket launches earlier this week it will be able to send a GPS satellite into orbit Friday evening from Cape Canaveral.
The launch of the U.S. Space Force GPS III Space Vehicle 04 is scheduled for 6:43 p.m. California time.
The launch was originally planned on Wednesday, but it was delayed to make way for a higher-priority United Launch Alliance mission — also scheduled for Wednesday — carrying a satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office. As a result, the SpaceX mission was pushed back until Friday.
As luck would have it, Wednesday night’s ULA launch wound up being scrubbed at the last minute due to an engine-ignition failure. A new date has not yet been set for that mission.
In the interim, SpaceX on Thursday tried to launch another batch of 60 Starlink internet satellites into orbit aboard a separate rocket. But that mission was aborted just seconds before liftoff due to a concerning ground-sensor alert. That mission also has not yet been rescheduled.
If Friday night’s launch for the Space Force is successful, it will be the third National Security Space Launch by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. After launch, SpaceX will attempt to recover the first stage of the rocket by landing on a droneship, dubbed “Just Read the Instructions,” floating in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX routinely recovers its rockets for reuse to slash costs of future missions.
The GPS satellite will be added to an array that already includes 31 satellites orbiting at a rough altitude of 12,550 miles above the Earth.
“Our GPS III team is excited to be here once again,” Col. Edward Byrne, Medium Earth Orbit Space Systems Division chief, said in a statement. “Less than three months ago, we successfully launched GPS III SV03. Since then, the team has successfully delivered the satellite to its final orbit, performed on-orbit testing and delivered the satellite to operations, while executing a mature satellite production line. I can’t be more proud of everyone involved in this mission.
“The launch of GPS III SV04 will continue to modernize our GPS constellation by increasing our capabilities with advanced features for both our civil and military users across the world,” he said.