SpaceX hoped Sunday to boldly go where it has never gone before, making its first foray into the government reconnaissance industry with the scheduled launch of a USA spy satellite. The company has successfully landed numerous rockets already, but this is the first time it's done so on a mission for the US Department of Defense.
The successful liftoff was from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
SpaceX on Monday blasted off a secretive USA government payload, known only as NROL-76, marking the first military launch for the California-based aerospace company headed by billionaire tycoon Elon Musk.
The launch was put back a day after a problem with a sensor saw the first attempt abandoned seconds before liftoff.
Since this was a national security launch, not much is known about the goal of Monday's mission, or the satellite's intended orbit.
A 23-storey Falcon 9 rocket carrying the NROL-76 for the national reconnaissance office left the launchpad at 7:15am local time today from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The U.S. military has primarily relied on the United Launch Alliance (ULA), which is a partnership between Lockheed-Martin and Boeing, for its sensitive satellite launches, so this is a big achievement for SpaceX.
Upper level winds threatened the launch. The company has just completed its first launch for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which is part of the Department of Defense. Apparently the wind shear "was at 98.6% of the theoretical load limit". But Monday's launch, at 4:15 a.m.
For years, the market for launching USA military payloads was dominated by the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
No details were divulged about the satellite after the launch.
The NRO launch used a new rocket, but the first stage made a safe landing at Cape Canaveral Air Force station and will likely be used again for a future launch. The company has conducted nine resupply missions to the International Space Station under NASA contracts since 2012. "The company later dropped the suit, as U.S. Air Force agreed to "[expand] the number of competitive opportunities for launch services".