Elon Musk's SpaceX boosts US satellite-based navigation system

Lockheed Martin-built satellite includes improved GPS technology

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket delivered a Space Force Global Positioning System satellite into orbit Tuesday.

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The Lockheed Martin-built GPS III SV03 satellite joins a fleet of 31 other GPS satellites circling the Earth twice each day, according to the Space Force.

A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket, with a global positioning satellite for the U.S. Space Force, lifts off from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Tuesday, June 30, 2020. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

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This satellite is more accurate and powerful than previous GPS satellites, Space Force officials said. It allows the use of the new L1C civilian GPS signal, which will allow use with international navigation systems. The signal was developed as a common signal to be used by both the U.S. GPS and European Galileo systems. Japanese and Chinese satellites are adopting similar signals, too.

“Your GPS just got slightly better,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted following the successful launch.

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The satellite isn’t just for civilian use. It can also carry more accurate military signals and includes anti-jamming capabilities, officials said.

The new generation of GPS satellites will last 15 years, according to the Space Force. That’s 25 percent longer than previous designs in orbit.

More than 4 billion people use GPS, according to the Space Force.

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This is the third satellite to work with L1C signals, according to NASA. The first, the GPS III SV01, launched in December 2018 and the second, GPS III SV02, launched in July 2019. This launch was delayed for 60 days due to the coronavirus outbreak.

SpaceX recovered the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket used in the launch with its autonomous ship named Just Read the Instructions.

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