February 29, 2024

SpaceX launches classified spy satellite for US military, lands rocket

SpaceX sent out a U.S. spy satellite to orbit today (Feb. 2) in the second of three prepared launches over a four-day stretch.A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket topped with the National Reconnaissance Offices (NRO) NROL-87 payload lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California today at 3:27 p.m. EST (2027 GMT; 12:27 p.m. regional California time). A little over eight minutes later on, the Falcon 9s first stage returned to Earth for a pinpoint goal at Vandenbergs Landing Zone 4. The upper phase, on the other hand, continued bring NROL-87 to orbit.Related: The development of SpaceXs rockets in picturesA SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket releases the NROL-87 mission for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Feb. 2, 2022. (Image credit: SpaceX) Its unclear what the spy satellite will do up there; its activities and instruments are categorized, like those of most NRO spacecraft. (The NRO runs the United States fleet of spy satellites.) Upon the NROs request, SpaceX ended todays launch webcast just after the very first phase touched down.The NROL-87 launch came simply 2 days after SpaceX delivered the Italian CSG-2 Earth-observation satellite to orbit from Floridas Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. And the company plans to introduce 49 of its Starlink internet satellites on Thursday (Feb. 3) from NASAs Kennedy Space Center, which is also on Floridas Space Coast.Todays launch was SpaceXs fifth of 2022. The mission marked the businesss 143rd orbital launch overall and its 105th booster landing. SpaceX frequently recycles Falcon 9 first stages, as well as those of its Falcon Heavy rocket, as a method to reduce launch expenses and improve efficiency. The very first phase that assisted launch NROL-87 had not flown in the past, its brand-new status indicated by its clean, unblemished coat of white paint.NROL-87 was the NROs very first launch of the year and its very first with SpaceX under a $316 million National Security Space Launch agreement that was signed in 2020, NRO officials said through Twitter on Tuesday (Feb. 1). It was likewise the first NRO mission to involve a rocket landing.Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook..