Following a bevy of unforeseen delays, SpaceX officially launched its GPS III SV01 mission from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Sunday. The Falcon 9 rocket ignited its engines and blasted off from the launch pad at 8:51 A.M. Eastern time.
Image Credit: SpaceX
Citing an official statement by SpaceX, the United States Air Force ordered the launch earlier this year to send a brand-new Global Positioning System (GPS) III satellite into orbit around the Earth. There, it would join 31 existing GPS satellites, augmenting the current system with new anti-jamming technology and enhanced location fetching accuracy.
One hour and 56 minutes after the Falcon 9 rocket left the launch pad, the GPS III satellite it took to space was deployed to medium Earth orbit. Unfortunately, the mission requirements made it impossible for SpaceX to attempt landing the Falcon 9 first stage for recovery and refurbishment, so it wasn’t attempted.
As with most of SpaceX’s launches, the commercial space company streamed the whole event live from its website and YouTube channel. We’ve embedded that video below for your viewing pleasure:
Sunday’s launch was particularly crucial for SpaceX because it was the first time the commercial space company launched national security-centric payload for the United States government. But it won’t be the last; SpaceX says it’s poised to launch at four more GPS III missions in the future under the same contact, the next of which will fly to space mid-2019.
In addition to being a matter of national security, Sunday’s Falcon 9 launch just happened to be SpaceX’s 21st launch of 2018 – a new milestone. It was SpaceX’s final launch of the year, but 21 rocket launches in a single calendar year oversteps the commercial space company’s previous record of just 18 rocket launches in 2017.
It should be interesting to see whether SpaceX surpasses its new milestone in 2019, but only time will tell.