A SpaceX rocket carrying a U.S. military navigation satellite took off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on Sunday, marking the space transportation company’s first national security space mission for the United States.
The Falcon 9 rocket carrying a roughly $500 million GPS satellite built by Lockheed Martin Corp lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 8:51 a.m. local time (1351 GMT). Four previous scheduled launches in the last week, including one on Saturday, were canceled due to weather and technical issues. The satellite was deployed to medium Earth orbit approximately 1 hour and 56
minutes after liftoff.
Due to mission requirements, SpaceX did not attempt to land Falcon 9’s first stage after launch.
The United States’ Global Positioning System delivers positioning, navigation, and timing services supporting vital U.S. and allied operations worldwide, and underpins critical financial, transportation, and agricultural infrastructure that billions of users have come to depend on daily.
The United States Air Force’s first GPS III satellite will augment the current constellation of 31 operational GPS satellites. This newest generation of GPS satellites is designed and built to deliver positioning, navigation,
and timing information with three times better accuracy, and up to eight times improved anti-jamming capability.
SpaceX sued the U.S. Air Force in 2014 over the military’s award of a multibillion-dollar, non-compete contract for 36 rocket launches to United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Boeing and Lockheed. It dropped the lawsuit in 2015 after the Air Force agreed to open up competition.
The next year, SpaceX won an $83 million Air Force contract to launch the GPS III satellite, which will have a lifespan of 15 years.
The satellite is the first to launch out of 32 in production by Lockheed under contracts worth a combined $12.6 billion for the Air Force GPS III program, according to Lockheed spokesman Chip Eschenfelder.
The next GPS III satellite is due to launch in mid-2019.