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GPSIII-SV04 lifts off after a month delay

Updated: Nov 14, 2020

6:24 PM Est, atop a Falcon 9 rocket from SLC-40 at Canaveral Air Force Station

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Originally set to launch back on October 2nd, an issue with an engine caused the computer to abort the launch only two seconds before lift off. After an investigation SpaceX found residue from a masking lacquer was left behind and blocked an area .06 inches wide in two of the nine Merlin 1D engines. The lacquer is designed to protect sensitive parts during the anti-corrosion anodizing treatment and then supposed to be removed. The same issue was found on the next two brand new first stage boosters set to fly as well, those of the Sentinel 6 launch from Vandenburg which is not slated for Nov. 21st, and the next crewed mission, Crew-1 which is now set for Nov. 14th from Cape Canaveral.

This launch marks the third of ten total upgraded GPS satellites the U.S. military plans to launch. SpaceX is currently scheduled to fly five of those launches, with the next two being sometime in the year 2021. These satellites are an upgraded next generation version of GPS navigation satellites that send down higher powered signals with a higher resiliency to jamming and boost additional broadcast frequencies that make the GPS network more compatible with similar constellations of satellites. This satellite was given the unofficial name "Sacagawea" after the Shoshone guide guide that helped Lewis and Clark on their famous expedition through America's West. Previous satellites were given the names, "Vespucci", and "Magellan". The last satellite to launch was originally named "Columbus" but was later changed to "Henson" after the black explorer Mathew Henson who was part of the first expedition to the North Pole over a century ago.

This launch for SpaceX marks the 97th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket, and the 64th successful landing of a first stage booster. Approximately nine minutes after liftoff the first stage landed down in the Atlantic Ocean on the drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You", and will make it's way back to Port Canaveral to have booster 1062 processed to be made flight ready and re-flown in the near future.

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