The Pentagon allows SpaceX to send a national security satellite to orbit with a reused rocket for the first time. SpaceX will be launching GPS III SV05 satellite for the Space Mission on Thursday.
The Falcon 9 rocket booster launched the GPS III SV04 satellite last November. The company’s Falcon 9 rockets are partly reusable, as SpaceX typically lands the boosters – the most vital and most valuable part of the rocket – and then ejects repeatedly.
“In preparation for this first time event we’ve worked closely with SpaceX to understand the refurbishment processes and are confident that this rocket is ready for its next flight,” Dr. Walter Lauderdale, deputy mission director of the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missiles Systems Center, told journalists during an announcement on Monday.
The Pentagon granted SpaceX five of the six GPS III satellite launch commitments to time. However, the GPS III SV02 mission was propelled by opponent United Launch Alliance – the rocket-building shared investment of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Those five launch deals total $469.8 million and initially did not incorporate the opportunity for SpaceX to reuse its Falcon 9 spacecraft.
As the title implies, GPS III spacecraft substitute the 31 GPS satellites currently operating in orbit. Last year, space and Missiles Systems Center modified the agreements for SpaceX’s succeeding two GPS III satellite originates from permitting reuse, a movement that the military expected will save about $64 million.
Prominently, Space Force claimed that SpaceX employs the corresponding booster to propel the SV05 that launched the SV04 satellite.
But Dr. Lauderdale said Space and Missiles Systems Center has “no other restraints” for how the corporation handles the Falcon 9 booster in the future. It also highlighted that Space Force is also subjected to controlling national security payloads propelled on boosters from non-military missions.
“We continue to work with [SpaceX] and, looking ahead to the SV06 mission next year … we’ll be working with them as to what boosters are available,” said Dr. Lauderdale. “We are certainly open to using other boosters not just ones that have flown [for Space Force].