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

Cristina Cross
December 26, 2018

The launch had been rescheduled earlier in the week because of the weather.

The mission, dubbed SSO-A, or "SmallSat Express", set a US launch record for most satellites put into space at a single time.

SpaceX was initially scheduled to launch on Tuesday, while Vice President looked on from Kennedy Space Center. 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 Vespucci will provide PNT information three times more accurate than that of current Global Positioning System, according to Air Force authorities.

A SpaceX rocket carrying a USA military navigation satellite blasted off from Florida's Cape Canaveral today, marking the space transportation company's first national security space mission for the United States. This marks the US-based aerospace company's first USA national security mission to date.

ULA has flown eight missions in 2018, and a ninth is scheduled for no earlier than 30 December from Vandenberg Air Force Base on California's central coast.

The satellite is the first of 10 built by Lockheed Martin and has major improvements including a redesigned Nuclear Detonation Detection System and a search-and-rescue payload.

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The next year, SpaceX won an $US83 million Air Force contract to launch the GPS III satellite, which will have a lifespan of 15 years.

Vespucci's nickname honors Italian cartographer and explorer Amerigo Vespucci, after whom North and South America were named.

Notably, the company dropped the lawsuit in 2015 after the Air Force agreed to open up competition.

The company stated that this very launch was the 21st as well as the final year of the launch.

The launch would be the first of 32 satellites in production by Lockheed under contracts worth a combined Dollars 12.6 billion for the Air Force GPS III program, Lockheed spokesman Chip Eschenfelder said.

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