Launch of First GPS III Satellite Begins Modernization of the GPS Constellation

SpaceX launches Air Force’s best GPS yet ends banner year

A rocket carrying a USA military navigation satellite blasted off from Florida's Cape Canaveral yesterday, marking the space transportation company's first national security space mission for the US.

Later on Sunday, Lockheed Martin, who built the satellite, confirmed the GPS III space vehicle had begun receiving and responding to commands.

The 31 now operational Global Positioning System satellites belong to four different iterations - Block IIA, which launched from 1990 to 1997; Block IIR, which lifted off from 1997 to 2004; Block II-RM, which launched from 2005 to 2009; and Block IIF, which took to the skies from 2010 to 2016.

SpaceX announced the news on its Twitter account, where it said, "All systems and weather are go for today's Falcon 9 launch of the GPS III SV01 satellite".

The satellite was deployed to its intended orbit approximately one hour and 56 minutes after lift-off.

The GPS III satellite is a next-generation version satellite that will significantly aid the US Air Force in more precise geolocation services.

SpaceX was initially scheduled to launch on Tuesday, while Vice President looked on from Kennedy Space Center.

In September, the Air Force selected Lockheed Martin for the GPS III Follow On (GPS IIIF) program, an estimated $7.2 billion opportunity to build up to 22 additional GPS IIIF satellites with additional capabilities. The new L1C civil signal also will make it the first GPS satellite broadcasting a compatible signal with other worldwide global navigation satellite systems, like the European Union's Galileo system.

The successful GPS III SV01 mission marked SpaceX's 21st and final launch of 2018, beating the company's 2017 flight rate of 18 launches. GPS IIIF builds off Lockheed Martin's existing modular GPS III, which was created to evolve with new technology and changing mission needs. The original launch window was 8:55 a.m. The last planned launch was cancelled on Saturday due to strong winds.

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