An unmanned Atlas rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Wednesday to deliver a Global Positioning System navigation satellite into orbit for the U.S. Air Force. The 189-foot-tall (58-meter) rocket, built and launched by a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, lifted off at 1:21 p.m. ET. Perched on top of the rocket was a $245 million Boeing-built GPS satellite, the eighth in the military’s new Block 2F series. Once in position 12,660 miles (20,374 km) above the planet, the spacecraft will replace an aging satellite in the 31-member operational network.
The launch from Florida occurred 17 hours after an unmanned Orbital Sciences Antares rocket exploded seconds after liftoff from a launch pad on Wallops Island, Virginia, destroying a cargo ship bound for the International Space Station. “The 45th Space Wing and the launch team evaluated the Atlas 5 launch vehicle for common components with the failed Antares launch vehicle … (and) have determined that these common components do not introduce any additional risk to the success of the Atlas 5 GPS mission,” the Air Force said in a statement before launch.