Musk's Space X finally launches first United States national security space mission

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Elon Musk-led SpaceX had won the National Security Space (NSS) contract with the Air Force in 2016 and intends to launch an additional four GPS III missions on Falcon 9, which is a two-stage rocket manufactured by the company.

SpaceX's payload is the GPS III SV01, the first of 10 updated GPS III satellites the Air Force plans to launch.

"There simply was not a performance reserve to meet our requirements and allow for this mission to bring the first stage back", Walter Lauderdale, mission director at the Air Force's Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) Launch Enterprise Systems Directorate, said during a prelaunch call with reporters on December 14.

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Space X will now finish 2018 with 21 launches, surpassing its own record of 18 missions previous year.

Bad weather forced the fourth cancellation of a SpaceX launch Saturday from Florida, with the next liftoff scheduled for Sunday.

The satellite was deployed to its intended orbit approximately one hour and 56 minutes after lift-off. One of its Falcon 9 rockets took the Air Force's new GPS III satellite into orbit.

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Heather Wilson, secretary of the Air Force, says this next-generation Global Positioning System satellite is three times more accurate than previous versions and eight times better at anti-jamming.

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. 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.

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.

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The very next year Musk's company secured an $83 million Air Force contract to launch the GPS III satellite. That won't happen for a few years though, as the Air Force is still working on the ground control system needed to control this next generation of navigation.

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