Hawthorne-based SpaceX Sunday successfully launched a U.S. Air Force GPS satellite into orbit from Cape Canaveral in Florida, after postponing several planned launches over the past few days due to weather and other issues.
The launch of the GPS III SV01 satellite, nicknamed Vespucci in honor of Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, had originally been scheduled for 6:11 a.m. California time Tuesday.
The company used a Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket for the launch.
“Launch is always a monumental event, and especially so since this is the first GPS satellite of its generation launched on SpaceX’s first National Security Space mission,” said Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center and Air Force program executive officer for Space. “As more GPS III satellites join the constellation, it will bring better service at a lower cost to a technology that is now fully woven into the fabric of any modern civilization.”
“The first GPS III launch marks a significant milestone for the GPS constellation as well as our partnership with SpaceX,” said Col. Robert Bongiovi, Launch Enterprise director. “This launch demonstrated the successful teamwork and cooperation amongst all mission partners to deliver the capabilities our warfighter demands. I’m proud of my team and look forward to our additional National Security Space missions with SpaceX.”
The satellite itself was built by Lockheed Martin. A company executive said the satellite “will be the first step in modernizing the Air Force’s GPS constellation with the most powerful and resilient GPS satellites ever designed and built.”
The satellite will join 31 GPS satellites already in orbit. Air Force officials said the constellation will “provide the `gold standard’ in positioning, navigation and timing services for more than 4 billion users worldwide.”
SpaceX is already under contract to launch four more GPS III missions.