SpaceX launches top-secret spy satellite for U.S. government

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Elon Musk announced Monday, May 1, 2017, on Twitter that SpaceX’s spy satellite launch was successful.
Elon Musk announced Monday, May 1, 2017, on Twitter that SpaceX’s spy satellite launch was successful.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. >> Hawthorne-based SpaceX launched a top-secret spy satellite for the U.S. government early Monday and then successfully landed the booster for expected reuse.

The unmanned Falcon 9 rocket that lifted off from SpaceX’s NASA-leased pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida was the company’s first mission for the National Reconnaissance Office. No details were divulged about the newly launched NRO satellite. Instead, SpaceX focused its webcast on the successful touchdown of the first-stage booster.

The leftover booster — its job done — landed next door at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station several minutes after liftoff. Sonic booms rattled the area, serving as a Monday morning wake-up call. Across the country, cheers erupted at SpaceX Mission Control at company headquarters in Hawthorne.

SpaceX strives to return most of its boosters for reuse. The company’s first recycled rocket flew last month. Musk believes reusable rockets are the key to drastically cutting launch costs, eventually making it possible to fulfill his vision of colonizing Mars.

This was the fourth SpaceX booster landing at Cape Canaveral; even more have landed on ocean platforms.

SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk said via Twitter that both the launch and landing were good. But the upper-level wind at liftoff was “unusually high.”

“Tough call, as high altitude wind shear was at 98.6 percent of the theoretical load limit,” he said in a tweet. Earlier in the morning, he noted about the wind, “Worrying, but not a showstopper.”

A launch attempt Sunday was foiled at the last minute by a bad sensor. But Monday’s launch, at 4:15 a.m. Pacific time, was picture perfect.



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