GPS III SV-01 was finally launched after 5 days of launcher and weather problems.
Launch took place from Cape Canaveral aboard a 2-stage SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 1351 UTC (0851 local) on 23 December. It is reported to have been successful.
The satellite has been named ‘Vespucci’ after the Italian cartographer and explorer Amerigo Vespucci, after whom North and South America were named.
The current GPS constellation comprises 34 satellites, 31 set healthy; all are GPS II variants, with an average age of 11 years - the oldest is 25.
Although the GPS III satellites represent a major advance in GPS technology, they will continue to provide legacy signals. Once commissioned, GPS III SV-01 will replace GPS II SV-43, launched in 1997. All satellites continue to occupy one of 6 circular medium earth orbits (MEO) at ~20,200 km, inclined at 55º.
Ultimately, GPS III satellites will transmit new civil L1C, L2C and L5 signals as well as a new military M-code. They will provide greater power and claim to be 3-times more accurate than hitherto.
Full GPS III capabilities will require the new ground-based Next-Generation Operational Control Segment (OCX), which will be incrementally introduced until 2023. In the meantime, Contingency Operations (COps) - an update to the current Operational Control Segment (OCS) - will let the new satellites contribute to the current system.
Lockheed Martin is completing the initial order for 10 GPS III satellites and has received an order for a further 22. GPS III SV-02 is scheduled for launch during Summer 2019, with -03 due during October.