SpaceX Launches 20th Rocket with USAF GPS Satellite, Does Not Recover Booster

Falcon 9 carrying USAF satellite on the launch pad 1 photo
Photo: Spacex via Youtube
Following several days of unsuccessful attempts to launch, SpaceX finally managed to get the United State Air Force's (USAF) satellite up in orbit on December 23 using a Falcon 9 rocket.
The spacecraft took off from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, carrying USAF's Global Positioning System III space vehicle (SV).

The hardware sent to orbit by Elon Musk's space cargo hauling company is now one of 31 operational GPS satellites used by the Air Force to deliver info about positioning, navigation, and timing to both its own and allied forces operating around the world.

The same constellation of satellites is allegedly used to “underpin critical financial, transportation, and agricultural infrastructure that billions of users have come to depend on daily.”

The mission was SpaceX's first national security mission.

After a flight that lasted nearly two hours, the rocket delivered its cargo to the intended orbit. Very unlike SpaceX, the company did not attempt to recover the first stage booster after separation due to “mission requirements.”

The launch of this Falcon 9 was the last scheduled for this year. In all, the company managed to reach orbit using its own rockets 20 times in 2018, breaking all records when it comes to this type of human activity.

SpaceX was initially planning a total of 22 launches this year, thus missing its target by a very small margin. Even so, the achievement will go down in the history of human space exploration, at least until next year, when an even bigger number of such events are planned.

It took SpaceX about a decade or so to grow from a startup to one of the most important companies in the industry. The Falcon family of rockets has become the most successful reusable booster in history.

They are cheaper to use and can manage a rather quick turnaround time, meaning each of the boosters recovered can be quickly used to launch once again.

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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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