Pandemic pushes SpaceX GPS 3 launch to late June

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The launch was scheduled for late April and is now projected for no earlier than June 30

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center has decided to reschedule the launch of the third GPS 3 satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to minimize the potential of COVID-19 exposure to the launch crew and operators, a spokesperson said April 7.

The launch was scheduled for late April and is now projected for June 30 at the earliest.

The GPS 3 satellite made by Lockheed Martin will be launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. This will be the second National Security Space Launch mission for the Falcon 9 rocket and the first NSSL mission where SpaceX will attempt to recover the booster.

The Space and Missile Systems Center decided that the current GPS constellation with 31 satellites in orbit is providing adequate services, so taking a pause in launches would not affect operations and allows the range to focus on the health of the workforce, SMC said.

The 45th Space Wing that operates the launch range at Cape Canaveral at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, was able to carry out a national security launch on March 26 during the pandemic. On March 30, the wing commander Brig. Gen. Doug Schiess declared a public health emergency for Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station due to the increased number of positive cases in the local area.

SMC said it still plans to complete the next three GPS launches in 2020.