SpaceX launches Falcon 9 on its first mission for Space Force

Satellite launch dedicated to 21st Space wing commander who died in May

Tuesday was launch day on Florida’s Space Coast.

A Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched a satellite for the U.S. Space Force Tuesday afternoon, the first mission by SpaceX for the newly formed military branch.

The Falcon 9 rocket soared into the cloud-covered sky above Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 40 at 4:10 p.m. with the GPS-III space vehicle No. 3. This is the third in the most advanced line of GPS satellites, and joins a constellation of 31 GPS spacecraft in orbit, according to the Space Force.

“Beautiful views of the planet from the first stage and the second stage,” Shiva Bharadvaj, SpaceX integration and test engineer, said of the camera views from the rocket hardware in space.

About eight minutes after liftoff the rocket booster came back down to Earth, landing on a droneship called Just Read the Instructions. The autonomous ship was waiting for its catch in the Atlantic Ocean.

The company also plans to recover the rocket fairings, or nose cone. Those will land in the Atlantic Ocean and then be scooped up by boat.

SpaceX recently celebrated its 10th anniversary of the first Falcon 9 launch.

The satellite separated from the rocket and deployed into orbit about 1 hour and 29 minutes after liftoff as planned.

The GPS-III satellite launch was dedicated to Col. Thomas Falzarano, Commander of 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. Falzarano died unexpectedly in May at 47 years old, according to the U.S. Space Force.

Here’s what you need to know for the launch from News 6 partner Florida Today.

• Teams are looking to lift off at 4:10 p.m.

• Weather is currently 60% "go" for launch.

• In the event of a delay, weather drops to 40% "go" for a Wednesday launch.

• This will mark the first Space Force launch for SpaceX.

• Onboard the rocket is the third GPS III satellite part of a constellation of 10 to improve satellites for the military.

• The satellite aims to provide better accuracy for military users; up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities; a more robust design that will extend the spacecraft life to 15 years, making it 25% longer than any current GPS satellite in orbit; a new civil signal that will make this satellite the first to broadcast with other international Global Navigation Satellite Systems.

• About eight minutes after liftoff, the rocket’s first-stage booster will target an automatic drone-ship landing in the Atlantic Ocean.

About the Authors: