A SpaceX rocket on Sunday blasted off a powerful GPS satellite for the US Air Force, signaling its 21st and final launching for the year 2018.
The launch delivered the Global Positioning System III space vehicle (SV) satellite into space to join the Air Force’s constellation of 31 operational GPS satellites.
It promises “three times greater precision,” and an extended, 15-year usable life, stated a SpaceX statement.
Billions of people globally rely on GPS to support financial, transportation, and agricultural infrastructure.
A SpaceX rocket carrying a US military navigation satellite blasted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on Sunday, marking the space transportation company’s earliest national security space mission for the United States.
The Falcon 9 rocket carrying out a roughly $500 million. Four past scheduled launches in the previous week, including an on Saturday, were canceled because of weather and technical difficulties.
The successful launch is a significant success for billionaire Elon Musk’s independently held rocket company, which has spent decades trying to break into the booming market for military space launches dominated by Lockheed and Boeing Co..
SpaceX resisted the US Air Force in 2014 within the Army’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 litigation in 2015 after the Air Force agreed to start the competition.
The satellite would be 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 launch was originally scheduled for 2014 but has been hobbled by production delays, the Air Force stated.
The next GPS III satellite is due to launch in mid-2019, Eschenfelder said, while subsequent satellites experience testing in the company’s Colorado processing facility.