On its fifth attempt, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket soars to the skies to deliver the US Air Force’s first GPS satellite into space.
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Remember the rocket launch SpaceX was forced to postpone because its Falcon 9 rocket reported a sensor issue? After yet another delay on December 22, it was finally launched yesterday at 7:21 PM IST (8:51 AM EST) from Space Launch Complex 40, Cape Canaveral in Florida. The much-delayed SpaceX rocket carried the United States Air Force’s first Global Positioning System III space vehicle (SV) into space.
Adhering to mission requirements, SpaceX did not attempt to land the rocket’s first stage after launch. According to the Elon Musk-owned space agency, this Falcon 9 was a “rare, expendable” version that needed all of its fuel reserve to propel it deep into the planet’s orbit. According to SpaceX, the satellite was to be deployed to medium Earth orbit approximately 1 hour, 56 minutes after liftoff, which is at an altitude of about 1,190 kilometres.
According to a recent report by Spaceflight Now, the US Air Force originally planned to launch the GPS III satellite back in 2014 but was plagued with production delays. The navigation payload comprises ultra-precise rubidium atomic clocks, radiation-hardened processors, and powerful L-band transmitters. The satellite is expected to have a lifespan of fifteen years in space.
“These GPS 3 satellites will introduce modernized capabilities and signals that are three times more accurate and up to eight times more powerful than previous generations,” commented Col. Steve Whitney, Director of the GPS Directorate at the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center. The US Air Force signed a $83 million contract with SpaceX to launch the satellite.
Blue Origin, another privately owned space agency, was supposed to launch its reusable rocket, New Shephard, on December 18 along with SpaceX but cancelled it, citing a “ground infrastructure issue”. Blue Origin later tweeted to say that its rocket wouldn’t launch anytime before early 2019.
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