SpaceX launches spy satellite

For the first time, the US National Reconnaissance Office placed a classified payload aboard a rocket that was previously in use.

SpaceX, a private aerospace company, successfully launched another US spy satellite into orbit. This time they used a Falcon 9 rocket to transport their payload.

Sunday’s mission from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California marked the first time that a US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) satellite has been carried into orbit on a used rocket. In February, an NRO satellite was launched using the same Falcon 9.

“All launches are exciting, but this one, with our first-ever reuse of a booster, is a striking indication of how NRO is building innovation and resiliency into everything we do,” said Colonel Chad Davis, director of NRO’s Office of Space Launch. “Reusing the booster shows we are continuing to push the boundaries of what’s possible while delivering greater value.”

Elon Musk was the founder of SpaceX. In 2017, SpaceX demonstrated its capability to reuse a rocket. Since then, it has deployed used boosters dozens of times, delivering on Musk’s strategy of driving down costs by building gear that can be used more than once.

On Sunday, the first stage booster was launched and separated in less than 3 minutes. It returned to Earth after touching down at Vandenberg. SpaceX then ended its live webcast of the flight at the NRO’s request, given the payload’s classified nature.

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NRO’s launches in February and on Sunday mark the start of a busy year for the agency, which plans to send nearly a dozen payloads into orbit in 2022. CBS News reported that two Naval Ocean Surveillance System Satellites (NOSS), were carried aboard the Falcon 9. These satellites are used to keep track of ships at sea and provide an aerospace analyst’s speculation.



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