Elon Musk's SpaceX successfully launches U.S. military satellite into orbit

Gwen Vasquez
December 27, 2018

Global Positioning System navigation, designed by Lockheed Martin, is the first USA national security space mission. GPS III is created to provide three times better accuracy and up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities. Eastern Standard Time on Sunday, December 23, 2018, from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It is also SpaceX's first flight to reuse the Falcon 9 first-stage booster a third time. This was due to weather and technical issues.

The GPS III satellite, to be deployed to medium Earth orbit, is created to deliver positioning, navigation, and timing information.

"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. It's the first in a series and nicknamed Vespucci after the 15th-century Italian explorer who calculated Earth's circumference to within 80 kilometres.

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.

The launch was originally scheduled for 2014 but has been hobbled by production delays, the Air Force said.

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The company managed to fly its Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time in February, and its Falcon 9 launches went off well throughout the year. Instead of just following the traditional one-and-done model of rocket launches, SpaceX launches and then re-launches its rockets to make spaceflight cheaper for all.

The satellite is the first of 10 built by Lockheed Martin and has major improvements including a redesigned Nuclear Detonation Detection System and a search-and-rescue payload.

This cargo is the first of the 32 satellites, constructed by Lockheed Martin for the US Air Force's GPS III programme.

Elon Musk's SpaceX scrapped Saturday's launch of a long-delayed navigation satellite for the USA military due to strong upper level winds.

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