SpaceX despatched a U.S. spy satellite tv for pc to orbit Wednesday (Feb. 2) within the second of three deliberate launches over a four-day stretch.
A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket topped with the Nationwide Reconnaissance Workplace’s (NRO) NROL-87 payload lifted off from Vandenberg Area Drive Base in California Wednesday at 3:27 p.m. EST (2027 GMT; 12:27 p.m. native California time).
Somewhat over eight minutes later, the Falcon 9’s first stage got here again to Earth for a pinpoint landing at SpaceX’s Touchdown Zone 4 at Vandenberg. The higher stage, in the meantime, continued carrying NROL-87 to orbit.
It isn’t clear what the spy satellite tv for pc will do up there; its actions and devices are labeled, like these of most NRO spacecraft. (The NRO operates america’ fleet of spy satellites.) Certainly, upon the NRO’s request, SpaceX ended in the present day’s launch webcast simply after the primary stage touched down.
The NROL-87 launch got here simply two days after SpaceX delivered the Italian CSG-2 Earth-observation satellite tv for pc to orbit from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Area Drive Station. And the corporate plans to launch 49 of its Starlink web satellites on Thursday (Feb. 3) from NASA’s Kennedy Area Heart, which can be on Florida’s Area Coast.
At the moment’s launch was SpaceX’s fifth of 2022. The mission marked the corporate’s 143rd orbital launch total and its one hundred and fifth booster touchdown. SpaceX generally reuses Falcon 9 first levels, in addition to these of its Falcon Heavy rocket, as a approach to scale back launch prices and increase productiveness. However the first stage that helped launch NROL-87 had not flown earlier than, its brand-new standing indicated by its clear, unblemished coat of white paint.
NROL-87 was the NRO’s first launch of the yr and its first with SpaceX underneath a $316 million Nationwide Safety Area Launch contract that was signed in 2020, NRO officers mentioned through Twitter on Tuesday (Feb. 1). It was additionally the primary NRO mission to contain a rocket touchdown.
Mike Wall is the creator of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a e book in regards to the seek for alien life. Comply with him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Comply with us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Fb.