US Spy Satellite Launch – SpaceX Falcon9

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After the delay of the release mission from Sunday, SpaceX finally underwent a 34th rocket mission by launching successfully its Falcon9 rocket, today – May 1st, 2017- Monday at 7:15 a.m. EDT. This is marked as the company’s 5th takeoff of the year 2017 and 1st military launch. The liftoff took place at the Kennedy Space Center- Cape Canaveral, Florida. The reason for the delay was reported to be a problem in the sensor placed on the rocket’s engine.

A U.S. Government Agency- NRO supported the mission, as it is known for the development and maintenance of spy satellites, after breaking officially, the 10-year domination of ULA, upon the matter of satellites launch of the United States Military and National Security. Reference Id: NROL-76; the payload of the SpaceX’s Rocket has been kept classified and no information pertaining to the extent of surveillance of this device has been disclosed.

According to the National Reconnaissance Office, the satellite is meant to inspect the potential threats posed to the United States by the terrorists. In order to avoid future incidents, this device will be tracking and observing the nuclear development in other countries and will generate an early alert warning in case of any missile strike inclination.

Although normally, the whole launch mission is broadcast by SpaceX, but this time, the company cut off the live footage transmission after about 2 minutes 48 seconds, at NRO’s request. This was done when the 230 feet long Fancon9 was at an altitude of about 90km and 1st stage booster got separated from the upper part.

This separation is done so that the rocket can cut safely back through the atmosphere of the Earth. After the separation of the parts, it then coasted for almost about ninety seconds and then began to move back to the Earth periodically, emitting white puffs indicative of the thrusters of nitrogen used to land Falcon 9 onto the pinpointed and computer-guided location.

The landing endeavor was successfully achieved by SpaceX, exhibited in the views provided by the on board cameras, as their Falcon 9 landed beautifully from a velocity as high as about 1,000 m/s to nearly Zero m/s, on a 300 feet wide platform at SpaceX Landing Zone#1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

This marks the 10th efficacious time that the company recovered its rockets, unharmed and 4th of SpaceX successful landings. Upon landing, while conducting the mission commentary, John Federspiel- lead mechanical design engineer from SpaceX said:

“And we have touchdown! The first stage has landed back at Landing Zone 1. Another good day for us at SpaceX. That is a beautiful sight to see.”

The CEO of SpaceX- Elon Musk, while explaining the success of the mission on Twitter, said:

“Launch and landing of the NRO spy satellite was good”

The rockets launched are mostly discarded after its safe anchorage but SpaceX is planning to reuse this rocket to reduce drastically the cost of space travel and fulfill his vision of inhabiting Mars. In order to achieve this motive, the company decided to put one of its used skyrockets back into action last month and is scheduling to conduct almost six missions with its used rockets in 2017.

The rocket launched on Monday, however, was a new one and SpaceX says that it will be launching few of its new rockets this year. About the re-usability of rockets, General John Raymond- Head of U.S. Space Command while talking at a Space Symposium said:

“I would be comfortable if we were to fly on a reused booster. They’ve proven they can do it.”

Reaction from Viewer:

One of the spectators- Stephen Marr said he was thrilled to see the rocket launch and appreciates the competition. He said:

“I think it is good for SpaceX that they are able to get these contracts. It has been ULA only for so long. It is good to see it completed for, to see SpaceX just have that extra revenue stream to do all the awesome things that they say they are going to do.”

SpaceX Business: SpaceX is providing its services to the NRO. Along with that, the company has two contracts with the US Air Force for the launching of Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites in the coming years- 2018, 2019. The company’s business with the military, for now, is worth >$10 billion for 70 missions. But, with almost thirteen more military satellite launches open for bidding, SpaceX aims to become one of the major service providers for reconnaissance and threat inspection via satellite, to the United States’ Department of Defense (DOD).

The Chief of Strategic Alliances of Space Florida- Dale Ketcham said:

“This satellite was going to launch from Florida anyway. But it reflects more competition. That will drive down prices and could result in it being cheaper to get into space, meaning more launches. Competition is a good thing.”

Upon the importance of the business boom, the Program Coordinator of Commercial Space Operations- Justin Karl, at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University said:

“It’s a very big deal. For government orbital launches, there are very few flight provider options. That is a huge segment of a changing market they have potentially captured.”

About SpaceX mission history:

The 1st landing of its orbital rocket was performed in December 2015. Now, the mission has been repeated for almost nine times.

  • Four of the landings occurred at Cape Canaveral’s Air Force Station Landing pad.
  • Six of the rockets returned to the floating platform in the ocean, which is done if the rocket is not left with enough fuel to turn back to the main launch site.

In the past, the intelligence agency is reported to have launched its payloads on Delta 4 rockets and United Launch Alliance Atlas 5.

The privately maintained company- SpaceX is reported to have sued the Air Force once, over the partnership of Lockheed-Martin and Boeing for the launch services contract it had with the United Launch Alliance (ULA).


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