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Innovation is the game, GPS III-5 is the name

A Falcon 9 rocket carrying a GPS III-5 satellite into orbit launches from LC-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla., June 17, 2021. The GPS III satellites have signals three times more accurate than the current generation of satellites and eight times the jamming resistance.

A Falcon 9 rocket carrying a GPS III-5 satellite into orbit launches from LC-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla., June 17, 2021. The GPS III satellites have signals three times more accurate than the current generation of satellites and eight times the jamming resistance.

A Falcon 9 rocket carrying a GPS III-5 satellite into orbit launches from LC-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla., June 17, 2021. The GPS III satellites have signals three times more accurate than the current generation of satellites and eight times the jamming resistance. (U.S. Space Force photo by Joshua Conti)

A Falcon 9 rocket carrying a GPS III-5 satellite into orbit launches from LC-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla., June 17, 2021. The GPS III satellites have signals three times more accurate than the current generation of satellites and eight times the jamming resistance. (U.S. Space Force photo by Joshua Conti)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla. --

On Thursday, June 17 at 4:09 p.m. a rocket soared into space from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. 

Nine minutes after liftoff, GPS III-5’s first stage booster re-entered Earth’s atmosphere and landed in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on SpaceX’s drone ship, making it the first refurbished booster launched by SpaceX for the Department of Defense. The satellite will provide navigation, positioning, and timing signals to billions of users around the world. 

The launch of the DoD’s first refurbished booster paved the way for significant savings for taxpayers. 

“Using a refurbished booster for this mission saved taxpayers potentially millions of dollars,” said Andrew Johnson, U.S. Space Force responsible engineer, specializing in Falcon vehicle structures. “This is a milestone that allows us to reuse a booster. The more flights you get out of a booster, the more cost effective the mission becomes.” 

Johnson said the savings from this mission could fund other launches and even increase launch tempo, resulting in increased safety and readiness for the United States. 

“This launch provides us the opportunity to launch the new constellation of GPS satellites at a discounted price,” said Tech Sgt. DeMichah Rumph, 5th Space Launch Squadron non-commissioned officer in charge of Falcon flight. “The GPS III satellites are three times more accurate with its signals and more compatible with international navigation systems.” 

“GPS III-5 was a very important mission for the 5th SLS and for the nation,” said Lt. Col. Mason Phelps, 5th SLS commander. 

While many may have been excited to see the GPS III-5 launch, few were as excited as those that put the work in to ensure mission success. 

“Watching the booster land successfully was the greatest feeling,” said Johnson excitedly. “It was a relief to me just knowing that it was successful; all the heavy and hard work was over.” 

Johnson said The Space Force team had eyes on the booster during all maintenance, storage and refurbishment activities performed by contractors until the vehicle was rolled out to the pad for launch.

“This was a great learning opportunity for everyone involved,” said Rumph. “The SpaceX technicians taught us at every opportunity. We learned the ins and outs of the booster intimately from inspecting every system and piece of hardware.” 

“While innovation and speed inevitably come with risk, the biggest threat to our success is moving too slowly and refusing to change,” said Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, Chief of Space Operations. “This launch proves the Space Force will smartly innovate to grow our national advantage in a contested space environment.”