SpaceX makes first US mil­i­tary launch

New Straits Times - - World -

MI­AMI: SpaceX yes­ter­day blasted off a se­cre­tive United States gov­ern­ment pay­load, known only as NROL-76, mark­ing the first mil­i­tary launch for the Cal­i­for­ni­abased aero­space com­pany headed by bil­lion­aire Elon Musk.

The pay­load for the Na­tional Re­con­nais­sance Of­fice (NRO), which makes and op­er­ates spy satellites for the US, soared into the sky atop a Fal­con 9 rocket at 7.15am.

About 10 min­utes af­ter launch, the scorched first stage of the rocket came back to Earth and landed up­right at Cape Canaveral, mark­ing the fourth suc­cess­ful solid ground land­ing for SpaceX.

“And we have touchdown,” a SpaceX com­men­ta­tor said on the live we­b­cast of the event as cheers broke out at mis­sion con­trol.

“The first stage has landed back at Land­ing Zone 1. Another good day for us at SpaceX. A beau­ti­ful sight to see.”

Live video of the launch showed the first and sec­ond stages of the rocket sep­a­rat­ing about two and a half min­utes into the flight.

The larger, first stage, made a gen­tle arc and pow­ered its ni­tro­gen thrusters to guide it back to Earth. The rocket then set it­self down, gently and steadily, in the cen­tre of the 91m cir­cu­lar land­ing zone.

Musk is lead­ing an ef­fort in the rocket in­dus­try to re­use costly parts rather than jet­ti­son them into the ocean af­ter each launch.

SpaceX has al­ready made mul­ti­ple suc­cess­ful land­ings, some on float­ing plat­forms — known as drone ships — in the ocean.

The launch was planned for Sun­day, but was post­poned in the last sec­onds be­fore liftoff due to a sen­sor is­sue with the rocket, SpaceX said.

The sen­sor was re­placed ahead of yes­ter­day’s at­tempt.

Lit­tle was known about the pay­load due to its clas­si­fied na­ture.

“As a mat­ter of pol­icy and be­cause of clas­si­fi­ca­tion, NRO does not pro­vide in­for­ma­tion about our con­tracts,” a spokesman said.

SpaceX reg­u­larly launches un­manned cargo ships to the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion, and is work­ing on a crew cap­sule that could carry hu­mans into or­bit as early as next year.


A Fal­con 9 rocket

car­ry­ing a clas­si­fied satel­lite

for the United States Na­tional Re­con­nais­sance Of­fice lift­ing off from the his­toric Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Cen­tre in Cape Canaveral, Florida,


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