13 May, 2017
SpaceX launched a US spy satellite into orbit Monday, then landed its first-stage rocket booster near the launchpad. SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sits on launch pad 39A just before its scheduled morning launch was cancelled due to a technical issue on April 30, 2017 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The 7:15 a.m. liftoff was the second attempt after a scrub on Sunday morning during an identical launch window. "Launch and landing of the NRO spy satellite was good", SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter after liftoff.
After the NRO device was sent into orbit, the Falcon 9's first stage booster made its way back to Earth for a ground-landing on Patrick Air Force Base's Landing Zone 1 in Cape Canaveral.
In late March, the company for the first time launched and landed a first-stage rocket booster that had previously flown.
The U.S. Defense Department has traditionally relied on United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, for its spy satellite launches.
Today's launch is the 34th mission for SpaceX and the fifth of more than 20 flights planned for this year.
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'And we have touchdown, ' a SpaceX commentator said on a live webcast as cheers broke out at mission control. "Tough call, as high altitude wind shear was at 98.6% of the theoretical load limit". It's the fourth time SpaceX has landed one of its rockets on land, and the 10th time the company has successfully recovered a rocket post-launch. However, the attempt to land back the Falcon 9 rocket is allowed to be filmed and photographed.
The maneuver is done by no other rocket launcher.
That mission became a controversial one when the government chose to shoot down the satellite with a Navy missile in 2008, saying it posed a risk of releasing a large amount of highly toxic fuel during an uncontrolled re-entry.
This launch marks the SpaceX's first mission for the Pentagon.
Central Floridians living as far as Winter Park reportedly heard the rocket's sonic boom upon its return to Earth. The company had another successful rocket launch as part of its NROL-76 mission.