SpaceX Launches 20th Rocket with USAF GPS Satellite, Does Not Recover Booster

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Thus, Elon Musk made it the first ever mission of security for United States government. It's meant to join the Air Force's current GPS constellation already in orbit, and when the new system becomes fully operational, it's expected to be three times more accurate than the GPS we use now.

Initially, the launch was scheduled to occur on December 18, but due to an "out of family" signals from sensors as well as a bad weather report, the launch delayed by three days.

It took five tries, working through technical issues, severe weather and even the pressure of a vice presidential visit until, finally, a rocket cut through clear skies Sunday on the way to space.

The network now features 31 operational satellites, which orbit about 12,550 miles (20,200 kilometers) above Earth. Spacecraft life will extend to 15 years, 25 percent longer than any of the Global Positioning System satellites on-orbit today.

GPS III Space Vehicle 01 (GPS III SV01) is now receiving and responding to commands from Lockheed Martin's Launch and Checkout Center at the company's Denver facility. It's the first in a series and nicknamed Vespucci after the 15th-century Italian explorer who calculated Earth's circumference to within 80 kilometres.

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

This newest generation of GPS satellites is designed and built to deliver positioning, navigation, and timing information.

The company managed to fly its Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time in February, and its Falcon 9 launches went off well throughout the year. The original launch window was 8:55 a.m.

This launch is SpaceX's final of the year, marking a record-number of annual launches for the company.

The GPS III SV01 satellite has a lifespan of 15 years, and it's the first to launch out of 32 satellites that are being created by Lockheed for the Air Force GPS III Program, Chip Eschenfelder, a Lockheed spokesperson, told Reuters in an article.