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SpaceX launches new GPS satellite for Space Force

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Space force Station on Thursday, propelling a GPS satellite toward orbit for the military. Photo courtesy of SpaceX.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Space force Station on Thursday, propelling a GPS satellite toward orbit for the military. Photo courtesy of SpaceX.

ORLANDO, Fla., June 17 (UPI) -- SpaceX launched the latest updated satellite for the U.S. Global Positioning System on Thursday afternoon from Florida -- the first time a national security mission has been sent aloft on a previously flown rocket booster.

The Falcon 9 rocket rose into a mostly sunny sky as planned at 12:09 p.m. EDT from Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. SpaceX recovered the booster on a barge, Just Read the Instructions, in the Atlantic Ocean.

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A little over an hour after launch, the second stage of the rocket carried the U.S. Space Force's GPS satellite into the intended orbit. At 1:41 p.m., SpaceX announced the satellite had separated from the upper stage successfully.

The satellite constellation comprises about 31 GPS satellites, the oldest dating to the late 1990s and early 2000s, according to a fact sheet from Lockheed Martin, which builds new GPS satellites.

The new satellite is known as GPS III 5, the fifth in a third generation of the satellites that are used by the military and by map data applications ranging from Google Maps to Uber.

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The newer GPS satellites have more precise location measurements and a signal that is more secure against jamming technology, according to Lockheed.

"Once the fifth GPS III satellite is on orbit, the five enhanced satellites with their advanced capabilities will represent about 16% of the constellation," the company's mission description says.

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Lockheed Martin's sixth, seventh and eighth GPS III satellites are complete and awaiting launch dates, according to the company.

SpaceX posted on Twitter that the rocket booster's first stage for the mission previously launched the last GPS satellite, GPS III 4, in November 2020.

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