After Four Attempts, Elon Musk's SpaceX Finally Launches Maiden Military Satellite


"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.

Initially, the launch was scheduled to occur on December 18, but due to an "out of family" signals from sensors as well as a bad weather report, the launch delayed by three days.

SpaceX abandoned 4 attempts to launch the US Air Force GPS III satellite earlier in the week (via the Guardian).

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

GPS III signals will also be compatible with other satellite-navigation systems, Whitney said, which should "maximize the availability and accuracy of navigation signals worldwide".

Once declared operational, GPS III SV01 is expected to take its place in today's 31-satellite-strong GPS constellation, which provides positioning, navigation and timing services to more than four billion civil, commercial and military users.

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The mission was SpaceX's first national security mission.

The next year, SpaceX won an $83 million (65.6 million pounds) Air Force contract to launch the GPS III satellite, which will have a lifespan of 15 years.

Lockheed Martin developed GPS III and manufactured GPS III SV01 at its advanced $128-million GPS III Processing Facility near Denver. GPS IIIF builds off Lockheed Martin's existing modular GPS III, which was created to evolve with new technology and changing mission needs.

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

Later on Sunday, Lockheed Martin, who built the satellite, confirmed the GPS III space vehicle had begun receiving and responding to commands.

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.