US Air Force´s most powerful Global Positioning System satellite launched

US Air Force´s most powerful Global Positioning System satellite launched”

This marks the US-based aerospace company's first USA national security mission to date.

On Sunday, December 23rd at 5:51 a.m. PST, SpaceX successfully launched the United States Air Force's first Global Positioning System III space vehicle (SV) from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

A successful launch - SpaceX's fourth attempt in a week after technical and weather delays - would be a significant victory for Musk's rocket company, which has spent years trying to break into the lucrative market for military space launches long-dominated by Lockheed and Boeing Co.

The network now features 31 operational satellites, which orbit about 12,550 miles (20,200 kilometers) above Earth. The GPS III went into medium Earth orbit roughly 1 hour and 56 minutes after liftoff, according to the SpaceX press kit.

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". The Air Force nicknamed the satellite "Vespucci" after Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci. "We will then send it commands to deploy its solar arrays and antennas, and begin on-orbit checkout and tests, including extensive signals testing with our advanced navigation payload provided by Harris Corporation", said Johnathon Caldwell, Lockheed Martin's Vice President for Navigation Systems. This is the 20th major rocket launch from Florida this year.

But it'll be a while before Vespucci, which was built by aerospace company Lockheed Martin, is fully up and running. The original launch window was 8:55 a.m. In September 2017, the Air Force declared the satellite "Available for Launch" (AFL) and had the company place it into storage. However, he added that future GPS III missions may feature attempts to recover the first stage, depending on flight results from Sunday's mission.

The GPS III satellite, which has a lifespan of 15 years, is the first of 32 to be built by Lockheed in contracts worth a combined $12.6bn from the US Air Force.

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