SpaceX is set to launch a GPS satellite to orbit on Wednesday morning (Jan. 18), and you can watch the liftoff live.
A Falcon 9 booster from SpaceX is scheduled to send GPS III Space Vehicle 06, an advanced Global Positioning System satellite, to space on Wednesday at 7:10 a.m. EST (1210 GMT) from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Watch it live here at Space.com courtesy of SpaceX or directly via the company (opens in new tab).
The launch will be SpaceX’s fourth in 2023 and, as usual, the first stage of the Falcon 9 will attempt a landing approximately eight minutes after launch.
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This GPS satellite is named after Amelia Earhart, a prominent female aviation pioneer who was the first non-male pilot to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. This launch will be the sixth of the GPS III series; the last one, named after Neil Armstrong, launched in June 2021.
The satellite will be launched on behalf of the U.S. Space Force as part of a larger push to modernize the nation’s GPS fleet. The new satellite has an expected lifetime of 15 years and will eventually form part of a set of 32 next-generation satellites, according to its maker, Lockheed Martin (opens in new tab).
The latest generation of GPS spacecraft has up to three times better accuracy, eight times improvement in anti-jamming systems and a new modular design for adaptations “to better address changing mission needs and emerging threats,” Lockheed Martin stated.
The company says that approximately half the world’s population (or four billion users) relies on GPS technology for everything from transportation to precise agriculture monitoring to utility infrastructure (some of which uses GPS in part to pinpoint service areas.)
The U.S. GPS network is not the only set of navigation satellites available, however. The European Union has an independent set known as Galileo, Russia has GLONASS, and China has a system called Beidou. Independence of GPS systems is often raised as an important matter of national sovereignty and security, especially in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of “Why Am I Taller (opens in new tab)?” (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).