Billionaire Elon Musk-owned SpaceX has successfully launched and deployed a powerful next-generation GPS navigation satellite into orbit — making it the company’s first-ever US government-sanctioned national security space mission.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket climbed into orbit on Sunday with the GPS 3 satellite designed to beam higher-power positioning, navigation and timing signals around the world.
It was SpaceX’s fifth attempt following technical and weather delays.
“On Sunday, SpaceX successfully launched the US 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,” the company said in a statement.
The satellite was deployed to its intended orbit approximately one hour and 56 minutes after lift-off.
Due to mission requirements, SpaceX did not attempt to land Falcon 9’s first stage after launch.
“The most important thing is that we get that rocket up safely and securely and it achieves its mission,” said US Vice President Mike Pence, also Chairman of the US National Space Council.
“I know this bird is going to fly and when it flies, it’s going to make a difference for the security and prosperity of the American people,” CBSNews quoted Pence as saying.
The $529 million GPS 3 satellite is the first of 10 being built by Lockheed Martin.
The satellite would provide data for use by devices ranging from smartphones to automobiles, commercial aircraft and virtually all sectors of the transportation industry.
“Multiple data streams will enable receivers in aircraft, for example, to compensate for atmospheric effects that might otherwise reduce accuracy,” the report said.
SpaceX won an initial contract to launch the first GPS 3 satellite in 2016.