SpaceX launches Air Force's best GPS yet, ends banner year

SpaceX launches Air Force's best GPS yet, ends banner year

A company executive said the satellite "will be the first step in modernizing the Air Force's Global Positioning System constellation with the most powerful and resilient Global Positioning System satellites ever designed and built".

This cargo is the first of the 32 satellites, constructed by Lockheed Martin for the US Air Force's GPS III programme. "I'm proud of my team and look forward to our additional National Security Space missions with SpaceX". However, he added that future GPS III missions may feature attempts to recover the first stage, depending on flight results from Sunday's mission. It's meant to join the Air Force's current GPS constellation already in orbit, and when the new system becomes fully operational, it's expected to be three times more accurate than the GPS we use now.

The Falcon 9 carried to orbit 64 spacecraft, in particular 15 Micro satellites and 49 cubesats, for 35 customers from 17 countries.

The solar-powered Vespucci will provide a number of advantages over the old-guard satellites, Air Force officials said.

Air Force and company engineers declared satellite control signal acquisition and rocket booster separation about 119 minutes after GPS III SV01's launch.

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The satellite itself was built by Lockheed Martin.

This newest generation of GPS satellites is designed and built to deliver positioning, navigation, and timing information.

GPS III's new L1C civil signal also will make it the first GPS satellite broadcasting a compatible signal with other worldwide global navigation satellite systems, like Galileo, improving connectivity for civilian users. The last planned launch was cancelled on Saturday due to strong winds. It's the first in a series and nicknamed Vespucci after the 15th-century Italian explorer who calculated Earth's circumference to within 50 miles (80 kilometers).

This morning's launch was originally scheduled to occur on Tuesday (Dec. 18), but SpaceX called off that attempt after receiving an "out of family" reading from sensors on the Falcon 9's first stage.

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