SpaceX blasts off powerful GPS satellite for US military

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Bad weather forced the fourth cancellation of a SpaceX launch Saturday from Florida, with the next liftoff scheduled for Sunday.

The hardware sent to orbit by Elon Musk's space cargo hauling company is now one of 31 operational GPS satellites used by the Air Force to deliver info about positioning, navigation, and timing to both its own and allied forces operating around the world.

SpaceX was initially scheduled to launch on Tuesday, while Vice President looked on from Kennedy Space Center. This time, however, SpaceX won't attempt to land Falcon 9's first stage after the launch, the company said in its press kit, citing mission requirements.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018.

The mission was SpaceX's first national security mission.

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The US Air Force monitors the location of the launch known as the 45th Space Wing, helping to set up road blocks and clear relevant air space. For example, the new satellite will deliver PNT information three times more accurate than that of now operational Global Positioning System craft.

The next year, SpaceX won an United States dollars 83 million Air Force contract to launch the GPS III satellite, which will have a lifespan of 15 years.

Sunday's launch was Space X's 21st and final launch of the year, a company record. It dropped the lawsuit in 2015 after the Air Force agreed to open up competition.

The satellite is the first to launch out of 32 in production by Lockheed under contracts worth a combined $12.6 billion for the Air Force GPS III program, according to Lockheed spokesman Chip Eschenfelder.

The next GPS III satellite is due to launch in mid-2019 and the subsequent satellites will undergo testing in the company's Colorado processing facility. It'll likely take six to nine months to perform checkouts on the satellite in orbit, and a similar amount of time to do an integrated-systems test of the newly constituted constellation, Whitney said.

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