Musk's Space X finally launches first U.S. national security space mission

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a U.S. Air Force GPS III SV01 from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida

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"I'm proud of my team and look forward to our additional National Security Space missions with SpaceX". GPS III is created to provide three times better accuracy and up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities. Very unlike SpaceX, the company did not attempt to recover the first stage booster after separation due to "mission requirements".

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 Falcon 9 carried to orbit 64 spacecraft, in particular 15 Micro satellites and 49 cubesats, for 35 customers from 17 countries. You have arrived at a new era for the Global Positioning System (GPS). It's the first in a series and nicknamed Vespucci after the 15th-century Italian explorer who calculated Earth's circumference to within 50 miles (80 kilometers). Satellite control and operations are expected to shift to the Air Force's current Operational Control Segment when GPS III Contingency Operations upgrades are fully implemented later this year.

ULA has flown eight missions in 2018, and a ninth is scheduled for no earlier than 30 December from Vandenberg Air Force Base on California's central coast.

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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. On Dec. 8, GPS III SV01 completed pre-launch processing, fueling and encapsulation at Astrotech Space Operations, in Titusville, Florida.

It was SpaceX's 21st and final launch of the year, a company record. However, he added that future GPS III missions may feature attempts to recover the first stage, depending on flight results from Sunday's mission.

The satellite, designated GPS III SV01, is the first of an entirely new design of GPS satellite which will help the Air Force modernize today's GPS constellation with new technology and advanced capabilities.

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