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GPS III Space Vehicle 02 encapsulated ahead of planned July launch

GPS III encapsulation

The Air Force’s first Lockheed Martin-built GPS III satellite is encapsulated within a SpaceX Falcon 9 payload on Dec. 7 in preparation for its upcoming launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. (Photo courtesy of SpaceX)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. --

The Air Force’s Lockheed Martin-built Global Positioning System III satellite was encapsulated within the United Launch Alliance (ULA) payload fairing at Astrotech June 26 in preparation for its upcoming launch next month at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The USAF Space and Missile Systems Center, home to the vanguard of satellite acquisition professionals, and the nation’s launch procurer of choice, was responsible for GPS III SV02’s rigorous Mission Assurance certifications and testing leading to full launch- and mission-readiness.

Encapsulation within the payload fairing protects it against the impact of dynamic pressure and aerodynamic heating during its harrowing journey through Earth’s atmosphere, and supports the ability to communicate with the satellite until separation from the rocket on orbit.

GPS III SV02, known as “Magellan,” in honor of Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese explorer who led the first expedition to circumnavigate the Earth, is now ready to be rolled out to its pad at Space Launch Complex-37, where it will be mated with the ULA Delta IV (4,2) rocket. This will be the final launch for the Delta IV (4,2) configuration. It is scheduled for liftoff on July 25 at 10:55 a.m. EDT.

SMC conducted a rigorous source selection to ensure the Delta IV rocket met all mission requirements. SMC is responsible for all Mission Assurance analyses, which encompass technical evaluations of the products, system requirements verification and validation and examining every single piece of hardware that builds the rocket. This due diligence enables Magellan to be reliably placed on orbit to meet civilian and Warfighter communications needs.

Magellan will join the current 31-satellite operational constellation, plus one GPS III satellite currently undergoing on-orbit checkout, to continue providing the “Gold Standard” in positioning, navigation and timing services for more than four billion users worldwide. The encapsulation brings Magellan one-step closer to launch.

This second GPS III launch exemplifies SMC’s transition to the new SMC 2.0 - Production Corps construct, with more satellites awaiting their ride to orbit. As the U.S. enters a new era with space as a Warfighting domain, SMC is spearheading the way with more significant U.S. acquisition agility initiatives that will drive innovation within the space enterprise and speed the delivery of crucial new capabilities to Warfighters.

Air Force Space Command’s Space and Missile Systems Center, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California, is the U.S. Air Force’s Center of Excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. Its portfolio includes the Global Positioning System, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch, range systems, satellite control networks, space-based infrared systems and space situational awareness capabilities.

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