SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket sent a next-generation GPS satellite into orbit today for the U.S. Air Force, marking a couple of firsts — as well as a “last.”
It’s the first GPS III spacecraft to reach space, marking the start of a transition that will triple the accuracy of the Global Positioning System and boost its capability to resist jamming by up to eight times.
It’s also the first official SpaceX launch of a national security payload for the Air Force under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program, after a years-long process that saw SpaceX file a lawsuit against the federal government (and ultimately reach a settlement).
And the “last”? Today’s mission was the 21st and last launch for SpaceX in 2018, setting a new record for the California-based company. (Last year’s 18 marked its previous personal best.)