Published: Thu, December 27, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

SpaceX blasts off powerful Global Positioning System satellite for United States military

SpaceX blasts off powerful Global Positioning System satellite for United States military

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018. "Ignition and liftoff", said a SpaceX mission control operator as the white Falcon 9 rocket took off under sunny, blue skies at 8:51 am (1351 GMT) from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Hawthorne-based SpaceX Sunday successfully launched a U.S. Air Force GPS satellite into orbit from Cape Canaveral in Florida, after postponing several planned launches over the past few days due to weather and other issues. The launch was the company's 21st launch this year and its first Pentagon-sanctioned national security mission.

"The first GPS III launch marks a significant milestone for the GPS constellation as well as our partnership with SpaceX", said Col. Robert Bongiovi, Launch Enterprise director. The GPS III went into medium Earth orbit roughly 1 hour and 56 minutes after liftoff, according to the SpaceX press kit.

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

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The next year, SpaceX won an $US83 million Air Force contract to launch the GPS III satellite, which will have a lifespan of 15 years. "We will then send it commands to deploy its solar arrays and antennas, and begin on-orbit checkout and tests, including extensive signals testing with our advanced navigation payload provided by Harris Corporation", said Johnathon Caldwell, Lockheed Martin's Vice President for Navigation Systems.

The $529 million Global Positioning System 3 satellite is the first of 10 being built by Lockheed Martin. It is set to undertake another 4 GPS III missions.

The satellite itself was built by Lockheed Martin.

Elon Musk's rocket company SpaceX blasted off yet another spacecraft rocket into the orbit on Sunday. The new L1C civil signal also will make it the first GPS satellite broadcasting a compatible signal with other worldwide global navigation satellite systems, like the European Union's Galileo system.

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