Elon Musk’s private space company SpaceX has launched its first U.S. national security mission. One of its rockets was sent up in space today from Cape Canaveral in Florida with a U.S. military navigation satellite. It’s a major milestone for the private company which has been trying to establish a footing in the lucrative military space launch market that’s dominated by Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
The U.S. Air Force awarded a control for 36 launches to the United Launch Alliance in 2014. The launch alliance was a partnership between Lockheed Martin and Boeing. SpaceX had actually sued the Air Force back then over the award of this multibillion-dollar, non-compete contract. It dropped the lawsuit in 2015 after the Air Force agreed to take competing bids for the contract. SpaceX won the $83 million contract to launch the GPS III satellite the following year.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carried a $500 million GPS satellite built by Lockheed Martin to space today. It was launched at 8:51 am local time. This satellite was originally supposed to be launched in 2014 but has faced production delays. SpaceX has been able to launch it before the end of this year.
The GPS III satellite is going to have a lifespan of 15 years. It’s the first to go into space out of the 32 that Lockheed is set to produce. Lockheed spokesman Chip Eschenfelder told Reuters that the next GPS III satellite is going to be launched in mid-2019.
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