SpaceX launches US Air Force's best GPS satellite yet, closes last launch in 2018

The twice-delayed launch of Vespucci for the Air Force marks SpaceX's 21st & final launch of 2018.

SpaceX has successfully launched the US Air Force’s most powerful GPS satellite ever built, the GPS III 'Vespucci' satellite on 23 December.

A Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Sunday, hoisting the satellite into orbit. The satellite was supposed to soar Tuesday but rocket concerns and then weather delayed the flight.

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

Lockheed Martin developed the advanced GPS technology and is building the satellites at a facility near Denver.

Sunday’s launch was Space X’s 21st and final launch of the year, a company record said.

GPSIII at Lockheed Martin's facility before anechoic testing. The GPS III satellites are hardened to make them harder to jam, but a quest for new systems integrity and redundancy is ongoing for the military. Image courtesy: Lockheed Martin

GPSIII at Lockheed Martin's facility before anechoic testing. The GPS III satellites are hardened to make them harder to jam, but a quest for new systems integrity and redundancy is ongoing for the military. Image courtesy: Lockheed Martin

Billions of people worldwide depend on GPS to support financial, transportation, and agricultural infrastructure.

SpaceX said the rocket was a "rare, expendable" version of the Falcon 9 since it would not attempt to re-land the booster after launch, needing to reserve all the rocket fuel to propel the satellite to its distant orbit.

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