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SpaceX Falcon 9’s Upcoming Launch Shifts to Early 2020

On the report of an August 20th reports from the US Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), SpaceX’s next dedicated USAF launch, the third developed GPS III spacecraft has moved to one month and is presently scheduled no earlier than (NET) January 2020.

Referred to as GPS III Space Vehicle 03 (SV03), SpaceX’s next US military launch will follow just some months after United Launch Alliance (ULA) is about to launch GPS III SV02, scheduled to lift off at 9 am EDT, August 22nd. SpaceX kicked off the long GPS III launch operations in December 2018, successfully installing the 3900 kg communications and geolocation spacecraft into a switch orbit. The mission additionally marked SpaceX’s first deliberately expendable Falcon 9 Block 5 launch, a trend that will or might not continue with the corporate’s subsequent GPS launch. Recognized as GPS Block IIIA, SV01-03 is the first 3 of a batch of 10 spacecraft total, built by Lockheed Martin for an expected cost of roughly $600M apiece.

On the order of the US military’s woefully inefficient space procurement apparatus, ~$600M per satellite is a pretty good deal. Two equally modern USAF satellite acquisition programs the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) and Space-Based Infrared System constellations – have each surpassed their initial cost estimates by higher than a 2nd factor. On the entire program, GAO estimates that six AEHF satellites a minimum of $3 billion every, while SBIRS is in even critical shape with six new satellites anticipated to value $3.2 billion apiece.

Until, the Raytheon-built ‘OCX’ ground systems needed to take advantage of the ~$19B GPS III satellite upgrades has been just like a lot of an acquisition boondoggle, nearly doubling in cost over the last few years, bringing its final price to a minimum of $6.2B after years of delays. All informed, completing the upgraded GPS III constellation could be anticipated to value a naked minimal of $25B. This value doesn’t even include launches. However, the price of launching all of the spacecraft is – in a rare instance – going to be a small fraction of the overall acquisition, maybe $3-4B for all 32 satellites.

Whatever the nightmarish prices and general inefficiency, Lockheed Martin and the USAF proceed to march towards preliminary GPS III operability slowly. August 22nd’s ULA launch and January 2020’s SpaceX launch will take essential steps in the direction of that functionality, and can – with any luck – be followed by an extra two Falcon 9 GPS III launches in 2020. Six of ten IIIA satellites have already had launch contracts awarded, five of six of which were awarded to SpaceX.

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