For the first time ever, private space exploration company SpaceX successfully launched a spy satellite for the United States military.
SpaceX did not reveal specifics about the classified satellite launched Monday -- named NROL-76 after the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) -- except for its successful delivery into orbit.
Shortly after, SpaceX landed the Falcon 9 rocket used to launch the satellite on a landing pad in Florida – the fourth time the company has successfully landed a rocket on solid ground. SpaceX has reused a rocket once before, but today it brought out a brand new Falcon 9.
Initially, the launch was scheduled to take place a day before, but weather conditions delayed the event.
“Launch and landing of the NRO spy satellite was good,” SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk tweeted after the Falcon 9 rocket landed. “Tough call, as high altitude wind shear was at 98.6 percent of the theoretical load limit.”
SpaceX received certification from the U.S. Air Force to launch spy satellites in 2015, but the company was not tapped to do so until now. While SpaceX publicized the launch and landing, the actual purpose or orbit of NROL-76 was not revealed due to national security concerns.
By Barry Eitel in San Francisco