SpaceX Gets U.S. Military Approval to Launch Reused Falcon Booster

SpaceX Gets U.S. Military Approval to Launch Reused Falcon Booster

The U.S. military contract with SpaceX has been modified for future launches aboard the reused Falcon 9 booster, saving tens of millions of dollars in the U.S.

A series of GPS III satellites, built by Lockheed Martin, traditionally originated from a new consumable booster operated by the US Space Force’s Center for Space and Missile Systems. The first two GPS III spacecraft were launched with expendable Falcon 9 and United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rockets.

The consumable SpaceX Falcon 9 B1054 booster brings the US Air Force GPS III SV01 satellite into orbit on December 23, 2018, among its first and only missions. (SpaceX)

Previous contract modifications were made to allow Falcon 9 boosters starting GPS III missions to attempt to land. In June, a third GPS III vehicle was launched from Falcon 9 at the Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida. This is the first time a booster carrying a GPS III vehicle has been recovered.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 Booster B1060 was filmed while returning to Port Canaveral after a successful recovery in June 2020. (Richard Angle)

“We are proud of the partnership with SpaceX that has allowed us to successfully negotiate a contract amendment for the upcoming GPS III mission that will save taxpayers $52.7 million while maintaining our unprecedented record of success,” said Dr. Walt Lauderdale, Space and Missile Systems Center Falcon Systems and the Operations Director said in a statement provided by the US Space Force’s Center for Space and Missile Systems.

SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell said, “We are grateful for the efforts the US Space Force has invested in the evaluation, and we are excited to see the benefits of the technology. Our extensive experience with reuse has allowed SpaceX to continuously upgrade vehicles and save valuable taxes on these launches.”

New modifications to the GPS III launch service contract will not only restore the Falcon 9 booster, but will also allow firing from the booster you previously flown. However, this modification applies only to future releases of GPS III SV05 and SV06 satellites.

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Payload pairing using the GPS III SV03 encapsulated inside will be combined with the SpaceX Falcon 9 in June 2020. (SpaceX)

Plans to launch a series of GPS III satellites on the reused Falcon 9s were originally scheduled to begin in phase 2 of the launch service contract in 2021. The existing contract with the U.S. space force is concluded with the launch of the GPS III SV06 satellite. 2021. A contract for Phase 2 of the National Security Space Launch Program for the remaining four GPS III satellites has not yet been awarded and will be bid by SpaceX and ULA.

oncoming Currently scheduled to launch GPS III SV04 satellite on Tuesday, September 29 It uses the new Falcon 9 booster (B1062) from the SLC-40. The new Falcon 9 conducted a healthy static fire test of nine Merlin 1D engines early on the morning of Friday, September 25th. That evening, the encapsulated payload was captured by a Twitter user. goalkeeper While moving from a nearby processing facility to Cape Canaveral Air Force Base to pair up with the Falcon 9 booster.

If everything goes nominal between now and the scheduled launch date, the GPS III SV04 mission will be launched for a period extending to 9:55-10:10 PM EDT on Tuesday 29 September (055-0210 UTC on September 30). is. The 45th weather station predicts that the weather will be generally favorable at the time of launch with a 70% chance of acceptable conditions. If you need 24-hour recycling, the weather is slightly improved by 80%.

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