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UPDATE: SpaceX Launches First National Security Payload

After sending a payload into orbit for the National Reconnaissance Office, SpaceX landed the first stage booster at LZ-1. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX successfully launched a top-secret spy satellite into orbit from the Kennedy Space Center Monday and landed the first stage booster back at Cape Canaveral.

A previous attempt was call off Sunday as an issue with a sensor on the rocket forced officials to call a hold about 52 seconds before scheduled liftoff. The rocket was recycled for Monday’s launch.

The Falcon 9 rocket delivered a top-secret payload for the National Reconnaissance Office into, an intelligence gathering agency inside the Department of Defense. The NRO provides satellite intelligence data for national security and “innovative overhead reconnaissance systems.”

Upper level winds threatened the launch. SpaceX Founder Elon Musk said it was “tough call” to give the GO Monday “as high altitude wind shear was at 98.6% of the theoretical load limit.”

About 9 minutes after the launch, SpaceX landed the first stage booster at LZ-1, a landing facility at Cape Canaveral. SpaceX hopes to lower the cost of launches by reusing parts of the rocket. During SpaceX’s last launch, founder Elon Musk said the company attempted to recover the payload fairings – the nose cone on the top of the rocket that protects the payload. Previously, the fairings were discarded in the ocean.

It’s the first national security launch for the private space company. SpaceX received clearance to launch this type of payload back in 2015. Previously, its competitor, United Launch Alliance, handled classified launched for the Air Force. Competitive bidding opened up for private space companies, giving SpaceX contracts to launch national security payloads for the government.



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Brendan Byrne

About Brendan Byrne

Space Reporter and 'Are We There Yet?' Host

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration. Brendan is a native Floridian, born and raised in Broward County. He moved to ... Read Full Bio »