As part of its ongoing endeavour to strengthen the constellation of global positioning and navigation satellites that underlie smartphone apps, military operations, and more, Space X launched a new GPS satellite into orbit on behalf of the US military on Wednesday.
At 7:24 a.m. ET, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the GPS satellite lifted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
A second tweet with a video of the event included a confirmation from SpaceX that the satellite had been launched.
More than 30 GPS satellites are currently in operation in an orbit 12,550 miles (20,200 km) above the Earth’s surface, where the mission delivered the sixth spacecraft of the new generation of GPS satellites, known as GPS III. To pinpoint the exact location of objects on the ground, they continuously broadcast radio signals as they swing around the planet once every 12 hours or so. With plans to construct up to 32 satellites, including the six that have launched since 2019, the next-generation GPS III satellites, developed by Lockheed Martin, will update that system.
Related video: SpaceX Launches GPS for the US Space Force (Dailymotion).
Smartphones frequently use GPS services, but Lockheed Martin points out on its website that it also has military use.
According to the company’s website, “Space has become a more contested environment with more-competitive rivals.” “In order to combat evolving threats, our warfighters require improved capabilities. There has never been a more pressing need to put GPS back in the spotlight as a “warfighting system.
“In the late 1990s, the first GPS satellites of the preceding generation went into operation.
The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket, the sizable bottom-most component that provides the initial thrust during takeoff, separated from the rocket’s second stage and the satellite after the launch from Cape Canaveral and used up the majority of its fuel. It then returned to a precise landing on a platform at sea. For SpaceX, who frequently recovers and reuses their rockets to reduce costs, it is a normal manoeuvre.
In October 2022, SpaceX’s Crew-5 mission, which brought four men to the International Space Station, was launched using the same first-stage rocket booster as was used on Wednesday.