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SpaceX’s next dedicated USAF launch has been deferred to no earlier than 2020

Aug 23, 2019, 6:30 am

According to a new update, SpaceX Falcon 9’s next major US Air Force launch of GPS III Space Vehicle 03 has been deferred and is now scheduled no earlier than (NET) January 2020.

GPS III space vehicle is the most resilient and powerful GPS satellite ever to be put on orbit. Developed with an entirely new design, for the U.S. and allied forces, it aims to have greater accuracy and up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities over its predecessor GPS II satellite which makes up today’s GPS constellation.

Of a batch of 10 spacecraft, total GPS Block III A, SV01-03 is the first three produced by Lockheed Martin with an anticipated cost of roughly $600M apiece. The satellite which was designed and built at Lockheed Martin’s GPS III Processing Facility near Denver was shipped from Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, to the Cape on a massive Air Force C-17 aircraft.

This mission has been marked as the SpaceX’s first intentionally expendable Falcon 9 Block 5 launch. Additionally, the GPS III space vehicle will be built to upgrade the military’s GPS constellation fully. The 22 satellites that are likely to be produced by Lockheed Martin will cost an incredible $12B, or $550M apiece.

Deferring the mission from December 2019 to January 2020 comes as plans for an ambitious final quarter that have begun to take shape for SpaceX. However, this will be the longest gap that SpaceX has gone without launching since a catastrophic Falcon 9 spacecraft failure grounded the company’s launch operations.

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