SpaceX blasts off powerful Global Positioning System satellite for USA military

Mindy Sparks
December 26, 2018

A Space X Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched in the U.S. this afternoon, after four successive failed attempts to carry out the company's first national security space mission. Bad weather thwarted two more launch attempts on Thursday (Dec. 20) and Saturday (Dec. 22).

SpaceX said the rocket was a "rare, expendable" version of the Falcon 9 since it would not attempt to re-land the booster after launch, needing to reserve all the rocket fuel to propel the satellite to its distant orbit.

"You've got SpaceX, Boeing, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin all vying".

SpaceX has launched payloads for the USA military before, but Vespucci is the company's first official "National Security Space" mission - a designation reserved for liftoffs deemed critical to national defense.

This launch was planned in the year 2014 but again was delayed due to the production issues. The GPS III satellite, known as GPS 3 SV01 and nicknamed "Vespucci, will feature higher-power positioning, timing signals, and navigation around the world".

Heather Wilson, secretary of the Air Force, says this next-generation Global Positioning System satellite is three times more accurate than previous versions and eight times better at anti-jamming.

Notably, the company dropped the lawsuit in 2015 after the Air Force agreed to open up competition. The launch marks SpaceX's first-ever launch of a military satellite, giving musk's rocket company an opportunity to break into the lucrative market of military space.

The launch would be the first of 32 satellites in production by Lockheed under contracts worth a combined Dollars 12.6 billion for the Air Force GPS III program, Lockheed spokesman Chip Eschenfelder said.

The next GPS III satellite is due to launch in mid-2019, Eschenfelder said, while subsequent satellites undergo testing in the company's Colorado processing facility.

He has been a technology writer since more than five years.

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