SpaceX launches 1st U.S. military navigational satellite

The launch is huge for SpaceX since it marks its first ever national security space mission for the United States.

In what is possibly a milestone in SpaceX’s corporate history, Elon Musk’s privately held rocket company has blasted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on Sunday carrying a U.S. military navigation satellite, marking the launch as its first ever national security space mission for the country.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket was carrying a nearly $500 million GPS satellite that was built by Lockheed Martin Corp. It blasted off from Cape Canaveral at 8:51 a.m. local time (1351 GMT).

The picture perfect launch is a significant win for SpaceX, as it has been trying for years to break into the lucrative market for launching military satellites into space. The market is dominated by Boeing and Lockheed.

Incidentally, in 2014, SpaceX sued the U.S. Air Force over the awarding of a multi billion-dollar non-compete contract for thirty six rocket launches to United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Boeing and Lockheed. In 2015, it dropped the lawsuit after the U.S. Air Force agreed to open up competition.

SpaceX has also won a $83 million Air Force contract to launch the GPS III satellite, which will have a lifespan of 15 years. The launch will take place in 2019.

According to Lockheed’s spokesman Chip Eschenfelder, “the satellite is the first to launch out of 32 in production by Lockheed under contracts worth a combined $12.6 billion for the Air Force GPS III program”.

He went on to add, “the next GPS III satellite is due to launch in mid-2019” while “subsequent satellites” are undergoing testing in Lockheed’s Colorado processing facility.

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