On Wednesday, SpaceX successfully launched a new GPS satellite into orbit on behalf of the US military. This launch is part of a larger effort to improve the global positioning and navigation satellite constellation that is essential for various applications such as smartphone navigation and military operations.
The GPS satellite was launched aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 7:24 a.m. ET. SpaceX confirmed the successful deployment of the satellite in a tweet with accompanying video footage.
This mission carried the sixth spacecraft in a new generation of GPS satellites, known as GPS III. These satellites are designed to operate at an altitude of approximately 12,550 miles (20,200 km) above the Earth’s surface, where more than 30 GPS satellites are currently in operation.
These satellites orbit the planet once every 12 hours and continuously transmit radio signals to determine the precise location of objects on the ground. The next-generation GPS III satellites, which are built by Lockheed Martin, aim to modernize the GPS system and ultimately build up to 32 satellites, including the six that have been launched since 2019.
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GPS services are commonly used in everyday applications such as smartphones, however, Lockheed Martin also highlights on its website that GPS technology serves a vital role in military operations.
The company states, “Space has become a more contested environment, with more-competitive adversaries, and our warfighters need enhanced capabilities to take on evolving threats. The need to return the focus on GPS as a ‘warfighting system’ has never been clearer.”