I’ve said this before — probably multiple times — but SpaceX has had a very, very busy year. The company has been launching missions on a shockingly regular basis despite the coronavirus pandemic and even managed to fulfill its promise to NASA by launching the first crewed mission in its Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station.
Now, in what will be a somewhat more routine but nonetheless important mission, the company is planning today to launch a new, ultra-advanced GPS III satellite into Earth orbit. The mission will be launching a bit later than is typical, with the window opening at 9:43 p.m. EDT.
As is typical of just about every SpaceX launch, the entire event will be live-streamed by the company while SpaceX staff provide commentary and additional details about the mission. You can watch the launch via the embedded YouTube window below:
SpaceX’s summary of the launch reads as follows:
SpaceX is targeting Friday, October 2 for a Falcon 9 launch of the GPS III Space Vehicle 04 mission from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The 15-minute launch window opens at 9:43 p.m. EDT, or 01:43 UTC on October 3. Following stage separation, SpaceX will land Falcon 9’s first stage on the “Just Read the Instructions” droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. The spacecraft will deploy approximately 1 hour and 29 minutes after liftoff.
This is now the fourth GPS III satellite that will have been deployed into Earth orbit. SpaceX attempted to launch a GPS III satellite back in April but that launch was delayed significantly due to a variety of factors and eventually launched in late June instead. That was the third such satellite to be sent to space, so it’s been a few months since we’ve seen a launch with this kind of payload.
GPS III isn’t operational yet, at least not in any way that would change how you use your own GPS-enabled devices. Current GPS technology is pretty impressive, and it’s able to narrow down positions to within roughly two feet of its exact location. GPS III is even more powerful and, once it’s up and running, it will be able to narrow things down to within just nine inches. Now, that might not make much of a difference when you’re using Google Maps to find your way around an unfamiliar neighborhood, but it could offer a serious boost to the accuracy of certain apps that require much more precision.