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The United States' venerable Global Positioning System (GPS) is about to get a shot in the arm.
The first advanced, next-generation "GPS III" satellite rode to space today (Dec. 23) atop a two-stage SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 8:51 a.m. EST (1351 GMT) after nearly a week of delays. If all goes according to plan, this spacecraft, dubbed "Vespucci," will deploy into medium Earth orbit about 1 hour and 56 minutes after liftoff.
SpaceX - Falcon - Stages - Liftoff - Reuse
SpaceX usually attempts to land Falcon 9 first stages shortly after liftoff for future reuse, but that didn't happen today. The rocket flew in an expendable configuration, without any landing legs, at the request of SpaceX's customer, the U.S. Air Force.
"There simply was not a performance reserve to meet our requirements and allow for this mission to bring the first stage back," Walter Lauderdale, mission director at the Air Force's Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) Launch Enterprise Systems Directorate, said during a prelaunch call with reporters on Dec. 14.
SpaceX - Falcon - Rocket - GPS - III
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the new GPS III SV01 navigation satellite for the U.S. Air Force lifts off from a pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Dec. 23, 2018.
The GPS constellation provides precise positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) information to a variety of users, from soldiers in the field to drivers trying to find the best route through rush-hour traffic.
Network - Satellites - Miles - Kilometers - Earth
The network currently features 31 operational satellites, which orbit about 12,550 miles (20,200 kilometers) above Earth. The SUV-size Vespucci, which weighed 9,700 lbs. (4,400 kilograms) at launch, won't push that number up; it will replace a GPS craft known as SVN-43, which launched...
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