SpaceX launches Air Force's best GPS yet, ending banner year

A Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral on Sunday, the company's record 21st and final launch of the year.
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By Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX has launched the U.S. Air Force's most powerful GPS satellite ever built.

A Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Sunday, hoisting the satellite toward orbit.

The satellite was supposed to soar Tuesday but rocket concerns and then weather delayed the flight.

Heather Wilson, secretary of the Air Force, says this next-generation GPS satellite is three times more accurate than previous versions and eight times better at anti-jamming. It's the first in a series and nicknamed Vespucci after the 15th-century Italian explorer who calculated Earth's circumference to within 50 miles.

It was SpaceX's 21st and final launch of the year, a company record.

The successful launch is a significant victory for billionaire Elon Musk's privately held rocket company, which has spent years trying to break into the lucrative market for military space launches dominated by Lockheed and Boeing.

Reuters contributed.