SpaceX used a shiny new Falcon 9 rocket to successfully loft the latest military satellite to space for the US Space Force on Thursday.
Elon Musk’s rocket company finally launched the third-generation military GPS satellite after a series of earlier delays. It was initiallybut then got pushed back a few days. It came close to lifting off Oct. 2, but the launch was aborted with just two seconds to go on the countdown clock.
The unexpected issue led to a few other delays, notably ofto send four astronauts to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, out of concern that the issue could crop up on other Merlin engines.
An investigation revealed that a bit of “masking lacquer” had blocked a relief valve line, causing two of the rocket’s nine Merlin engines to attempt to fire early. The suspect engines were swapped out and new launch dates set.
Now the GPS III Space Vehicle 04 is on its way to orbit. The first stage booster used in the launch landed on the droneship Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic Ocean less than nine minutes after liftoff. It is set to make its second flight on another GPS satellite mission in 2021.
The company is also expected to try to recover the halves of the fairing or nose cone using different ships.
The next SpaceX launch is expected to be the aforementionedfor NASA. Liftoff is set for Nov. 14.