Hawthorne-based Space Exploration Technologies Corp. successfully completed its second mission on behalf of the U.S. Space Force, deploying a Lockheed Martin-designed GPS III satellite into orbit on Nov. 5
The satellite was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket at 6:24 p.m. EST. After separating from the rest of the spacecraft, the rocket’s first stage landed safely aboard an unmanned drone ship positioned in the Atlantic Ocean.
Just under 90 minutes after liftoff, the rocket deployed its payload, placing the satellite into orbit.
SpaceX deployed its first Space Force satellite in June and has a contract with Space Force to launch more GPS satellites over the next five years aboard rockets equipped with previously used first-stage boosters.
The company’s ability to recover and reuse boosters and other parts of its rockets is a key element of its plan to cut down on the cost of future launches.
The satellite deployed Nov. 5 will bolster an existing constellation of more than 30 spacecraft that provide navigational and communications support to the U.S. military.
According to Lockheed Martin, the GPS III satellites are more accurate than prior models and feature “improved anti-jamming capabilities.”
SpaceX celebrated its 100th successful flight last month and has picked up the pace of launches since delaying deployment of its first Space Force flight due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In addition to carrying payloads for Space Force and other paying customers, SpaceX has also deployed dozens of Starlink satellites over the last year.
The small internet relay satellites are built in-house and are part of the company’s plan to develop a global broadband network. SpaceX made the service available for testing in October.