Today’s successful launch marks two major milestones for a national security space mission — the first newly certified rocket for the Air Force in 20 years — and delivery of the first national security satellite that will provide the next-generation of position, navigation, and timing (PNT) services.
“We have worked with SpaceX over the past six years to ensure the mission success of their first national security launch,” said Steve Isakowitz, Aerospace president and CEO. “As demonstrated in today’s launch, Aerospace has pioneered the process for future entrants to compete and succeed in national security launches.”
Aerospace has worked extensively with the Air Force and SpaceX on its Block 5 design to meet the government’s high standards for reliability to ensure mission success for national security satellites critical to our country’s defense. The team has supported more than 60 SpaceX civil and commercial launches, collaboratively developing new certification and mission assurance processes. These efforts included rigorous qualification and acceptance review for systems, including propulsion, avionics, structures, ground systems, and safety systems.
“Working with SpaceX over the last several years has provided our team with a great opportunity to develop agile mission assurance processes,” said Randy Kendall, vice president of Launch Program Operations. “We’re looking at every aspect of our mission assurance process to improve efficiency, effectiveness, and responsiveness. We’re also using new technologies such as cloud computing, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to dramatically reduce our analysis timelines by a factor of 10 or more and to help our engineers identify data trends that may not be visible.”
SpaceX has won six competitive Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) launch services for the Air Force, including four more GPS satellites scheduled to be launched in the next three years. These launch service awards represent the reintroduction of competition to the EELV program and provide highly critical assured access to space for national security payloads. Aerospace has facilitated the opportunity for new entrants to work with the government and industry to bring new launch providers to serve the U.S. government’s needs.
The GPS III series — designed and built by Lockheed Martin — boasts numerous upgrades over previous GPS models in anti-jamming capabilities; more military and civilian signals that are more accurate and powerful; specialized signals, such as for aviation services; and a signal that can be used with other satellite navigation systems, such as the European Union’s Galileo system.
For military users, GPS plays a critical role in every warfighting domain, including precision- guided munitions, manned and unmanned aircraft navigation, handheld applications, land and sea navigation, and military logistical support. For civil users, GPS significantly increases accuracy for critical national infrastructure and commercial applications, including transportation, banking, emergency services, and agriculture.
Although several other countries operate or are building navigation satellite systems, the world’s gold standard continues to be the U.S. Air Force’s GPS. Aerospace continues to provide the engineering, scientific expertise, and guidance to improve the capabilities that so much of the world now depends on every day.
About The Aerospace Corporation
The Aerospace Corporation is a national nonprofit corporation that operates a federally funded research and development center and has approximately 4,000 employees. With major locations in El Segundo, Calif., Albuquerque, N.M., Colorado Springs, Colo., and the Washington, D.C., region, Aerospace addresses complex problems across the space enterprise and other areas of national significance through agility, innovation, and objective technical leadership. For more information, visit www.aerospace.org. Follow us on Twitter: @AerospaceCorp.