Elon Musk's SpaceX successfully launches U.S. military satellite into orbit

Elon Musk's SpaceX successfully launches U.S. military satellite into orbit

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, scheduled to launch a U.S. Air Force navigation satellite, sits on Launch Complex 40 after the launch was postponed.

A Space X Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched in the U.S. this afternoon, after four successive failed attempts to carry out the company's first national security space mission.

The successful launch is a significant victory for Elon Musk's privately held rocket company, which has spent years trying to break into the lucrative market for military space launches dominated by Lockheed and Boeing Co.

It is the first of 10 GPS III satellites made by Lockheed Martin that have been ordered by the Air Force, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

It would have marked SpaceX's first so-called National Security Space mission, as defined by the USA military, SpaceX said. It is but one of 32 planned GPS III satellites that will replace older ones now in orbit. SpaceX usually attempts to land Falcon 9 first stages shortly after liftoff for future reuse, but not today.

Two hours later, SpaceX published an update on Twitter and confirmed that the GPS III SV01 satellite was successfully deployed to medium Earth orbit.

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The dispatch was initially booked for 2014 however has been limped by generation delays, the Air Force said.

Air Force spokesman William Russell said: "Once fully operational, this latest generation of Global Positioning System satellites will bring new capabilities to users, including three times greater accuracy and up to eight times the anti-jamming capabilities". The next will launch in the middle of next year. "By this time next year, we expect to also have a second GPS III on orbit and users should be receiving signals from this first satellite".

The solar-powered Vespucci will provide a number of advantages over the old-guard satellites, Air Force officials said. Lockheed Martin is building the new satellites outside Denver. GPS IIIF builds off Lockheed Martin's existing modular GPS III, which was created to evolve with new technology and changing mission needs.

Bad weather forced the fourth cancellation of a SpaceX launch Saturday from Florida, with the next liftoff scheduled for Sunday. The original launch window was 8:55 a.m.

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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