Michael R. Brown  /  AP
The launch of a Air Force and United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket and Global Positioning Systems satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., is seen from the Eau Gallie Pier in Melbourne, Fla.
updated 5/28/2010 12:51:49 PM ET 2010-05-28T16:51:49

After several days' delay due to technical issues, a Delta 4 rocket has rumbled into the sky from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying a next-generation GPS satellite.

The GPS 2F-1 satellite was sent into orbit on Thursday night and successfully separated from the Delta 4's upper stage more than three hours later.

The satellite will be used for navigation as well as national security purposes.

It's the first of a new generation of Global Positioning System satellites, incorporating advanced atomic clocks and a jam-resistant military signal system as well as a new civilian signal system.

"GPS is used by nearly a billion people worldwide for everything from farming and aviation to public safety, disaster relief and recreation, not to mention its military purpose of providing precision navigation and timing to combat forces," Air Force Col. David Madden, GPS wing commander, said in a statement released before the launch. "GPS 2F will increase the signal power, precision and capacity of the system, and form the core of the GPS constellation for years to come."

A dozen such Boeing-built satellites will be launched over the next several years to replace 20-year-old satellites now in service.

This was the first GPS mission to launch on a Delta 4, after 49 missions launched atop the smaller Delta 2 between 1989 and 2009. Future GPS spacecraft will be lifted into orbit on the Delta 4, on the Atlas 4 and on ULA's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle.

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