SpaceX wins contract to launch USAF's GPS III-3 satellite


The US Air Force (USAF) has awarded a contract to Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) for global positioning system (GPS) III launch services.

Valued at around $96m, the National Security Space (NSS) launch services contract covers launch vehicle production, mission integration, launch operations, spaceflight worthiness and mission unique operations for the GPS III mission.

The second NSS contract requires SpaceX to launch GPS III-3 satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in February 2019 to provide improved anti-jamming capabilities and accuracy for precision navigation and timing.

"The competitive award of the GPS III Launch Services contract to SpaceX directly supports SMC’s mission of delivering resilient and affordable space capabilities to our nation."

The satellite is said to incorporate the common L1C signal, which is compatible with the European Space Agency’s Galileo global navigation satellite system and complement current services with the addition of new civil and military signals.

SpaceX was selected through a competitive bidding process, which received two offers in total.

USAF Space and SMC commander programme executive officer lieutenant general Samuel Greaves said: “The competitive award of the GPS III Launch Services contract to SpaceX directly supports SMC’s mission of delivering resilient and affordable space capabilities to our nation.

Expected to be completed by April 2019, work under the contract will be carried out at Hawthorne, California; Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida; and McGregor, Texas.

The contract has been awarded under the current Phase IA procurement strategy, which reintroduced competition for national security space launch services.

Last year, SpaceX received the first NSS launch services contract, worth around $82m, to launch GPS III-2 satellite in May 2018.