SMC works with government, industry partners in successful launch of GPS III SV 2 satellite

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The Air Force and its mission partners successfully launched the second GPS III satellite at 9:06 a.m. EDT, Aug. 22 from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

The Lockheed Martin-built satellite, named “Magellan” after the Portuguese navigator who led the first expedition to circumnavigate the globe, was carried to orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV launch vehicle in its final flight.

The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, home to a vanguard of satellite acquisition professionals and the nation’s launch procurer of choice, was responsible for Magellan’s rigorous mission assurance certifications and testing leading to full launch and mission-readiness. SMC also conducted a rigorous source selection to ensure the ULA Delta IV rocket met all mission requirements, which included examining every single piece of hardware that built the rocket. This enabled the satellite to reach orbit and meet civilian and warfighter communication needs.

“A successful launch like today’s is always a proud moment for the team and its many members,” said Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, SMC commander and Air Force program executive officer for space. “I can’t reiterate how important this second GPS III launch is as we progress toward a modernized fleet and maintain U.S. superiority in space. The launch of Magellan epitomizes the constant collaborative efforts which exemplify the continual improvements our teams at SMC are making in getting these satellites built and launched at epic speed. With a third GPS launch planned for the end of the year, we continue to provide the ‘gold standard’ in positioning, navigation and timing services for our military and for the world.”

GPS III’s Magellan separated from its upper stage approximately 1 hour, 56 minutes after launch. Engineers and operators at Lockheed Martin’s Waterton facility will now begin on-orbit checkout and tests, which are estimated to complete in one month. Operational use is expected to begin within a year.

“This launch was seven months in the making,” said Col. Edward Byrne, Medium Earth Orbit spacecraft production division chief. “As soon as we launched Vespucci last December, the team got to work on the SV02 campaign to get Magellan into orbit. This isn’t the end of our job with Magellan. We now have to carry out on-orbit checkouts, in parallel with preparations to launch SV03, not to mention the continual production effort of SV04. That is why the production corps space vehicles division is known as the ‘A-Team.’”

Magellan will join the current GPS constellation comprised of 31 operational spacecraft and will be the 21st M-Code-capable satellite added to the fleet. GPS satellites operate in medium Earth orbit at an altitude of approximately 12,550 miles (20,200 kilometers) in six planes. Each satellite circles the Earth twice per day, providing the “gold standard” of position, navigation and timing services for billions of users worldwide. GPS III, the newest generation of GPS satellites, brings new capabilities to users, including three times greater accuracy and up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities.

“Having launched a GPS III satellite in December 2018 aboard a Falcon 9 and now today on a Delta IV, the team demonstrated again their commitment and capability to achieve 100% mission success,” said Col. Robert Bongiovi, Launch Enterprise director.

SMC’s Production Corps, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California, leads the GPS III Magellan team. SMC’s Launch Enterprise led the launch, which took place at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Corporation is the prime satellite vehicle contractor. Air Force Space Command’s 50th Space Wing and 2nd Space Operations Squadron operate the GPS constellation from Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado.

SMC is the Air Force's Center of Acquisition Excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. Its portfolio includes GPS, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control network, space-based infrared systems and space situational awareness capabilities.

With Another launch of GPS III planned later this year, SMC will continue to support U.S. superiority in space at epic speed.