Elon Musk`s SpaceX scrapped Saturday`s launch of a long-delayed navigation satellite for the U.S. military due to strong upper level winds. The next launch attempt will be on Sunday at 8:51 a.m. EST/ 13:51 UTC, according to Space X officials. The launch, SpaceX`s fourth attempt in a week after technical and weather delays, would have been the rocket firm`s first national security space mission for the United States. Musk`s rocket company has spent years trying to break into the lucrative market for military space launches long-dominated by Lockheed and Boeing Co.
SpaceX sued the U.S. Air Force in 2014 in protest over the military`s award of a multibillion-dollar, non-compete contract for 36 rocket launches to United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Boeing and Lockheed. It dropped the lawsuit in 2015 after the Air Force agreed to open up competition. The next year, SpaceX won an $83 million Air Force contract to launch the GPS III satellite, which will have a lifespan of 15 years.
The launch would be the first of 32 satellites in production by Lockheed under contracts worth a combined $12.6 billion for the Air Force GPS III program, Lockheed spokesman Chip Eschenfelder said. Air Force spokesman William Russell said: “Once fully operational, this latest generation of GPS satellites will bring new capabilities to users, including three times greater accuracy and up to eight times the anti-jamming capabilities.”
The launch was originally scheduled for 2014 but has been hobbled by production delays, the Air Force said. It would have marked SpaceX`s first so-called National Security Space mission, as defined by the U.S. military, SpaceX said. The next GPS III satellite is due to launch in mid-2019, Eschenfelder said, while subsequent satellites undergo testing in the company`s Colorado processing facility.