SpaceX has been setting newer standards when it comes to launching rockets. Recently, SpaceX succeeded at something experts long believed couldn’t be done. SpaceX’s historic Falcon 9 launch is a huge one – launching a flight-proven Falcon 9 core stage and landing it again on the ASDS barge is an accomplishment SpaceX will be long remembered for. Brushing aside conventional wisdom that the technique will work out to be too expensive, SpaceX successfully landed the Falcon 9 rocket and created history. And now, SpaceX is venturing into national security arena.
SpaceX successfully launches its first ever spy satellite
SpaceX had scheduled to launch Falcon 9 rocket Sunday morning. But as the launch neared to within 52 seconds, a problem cropped up with a sensor on the first stage. The company then pushed the launch by 24 hours to Monday morning. SpaceX finally launched and landed a Falcon 9 rocket in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The Falcon 9 was carrying a spy satellite called the NROL-76 for National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The launch holds special significance because it’s the first time US Department of Defence has used SpaceX for its missions. For the past six years or so, United Launch Alliance has been doing the job for US Department of Defence. The NRO announced in May 2016 that the contract for this launch has been awarded to the Elon Musk-owned company. Up until now, SpaceX had primarily focused on cargo missions for the International Space Station (ISS) and telecommunication satellites.
Not much is known about NRO’s mission, since the payload is classified. But the recent launch does allow SpaceX to venture into the lucrative national security market. Stephen Clark at Spaceflight Now throws some light on the mysterious payload –
“One clue about the payload is SpaceX’s plan to recover the Falcon 9 first stage at Cape Canaveral, a maneuver that requires significant leftover fuel and is only possible on missions with lightweight satellites or launches into relatively low orbits”
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