A SpaceX Falcon rocket lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center on Monday to boost a classified spy satellite into orbit for the USA military then turned around and touched down at a nearby landing pad.
The 23-story-tall Falcon 9 rocket took off at 7:15 a.m. ET from a launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Fla.
After 10 years of ULA exclusivity, it's a huge win for SpaceX that a Falcon 9 rocket finally broke that monopoly and launched a classified National Reconnaissance Office spy satellite into orbit. Another good day for us at SpaceX.
The launch was initially planned for Sunday, but it was postponed in the last seconds before lift-off because of a sensor issue with the rocket, SpaceX said.
This was SpaceX's first mission for the National Reconnaissance Office.
Last month, Space Exploration Technologies Corp flew its first recovered booster on a second mission, a key step in company founder Elon Musk's quest to cut launch costs.
"Tough call, as high altitude wind shear was at 98.6% of the theoretical load limit", Musk wrote on Twitter.
For years, the market for launching US military payloads was dominated by the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
In 2014, SpaceX sued the U.S. Air Force in a dispute over an $11 billion contract awarded to ULA.
While the launch was SpaceX's 34th mission, it was the first assignment executed for the USA military - SpaceX received certification to launch satellites for the Air Force back in 2015.
The company later dropped the suit after the military agreed to open more launch contacts to competitive bidding.
SpaceX rocket yesterday blasted off with a U.S. government payload known only as NROL-76, marking the first military launch for the California-based aerospace company headed by billionaire Elon Musk.
SpaceX has won two additional contracts from the U.S. Air Force to orbit satellites for its Global Positioning Satellite (GPS 3) program in 2018 and 2019.