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SpaceX Launches Spy Satellite From Air Force Base in California

SpaceX, El American

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This Sunday, SpaceX launched a spy satellite into orbit from the Western Range, the space launch field that supports the main launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, in a joint effort with the Department of Defense’s National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

Although the launch was scheduled by the NRO for 6:41 a.m. Friday, Elon Musk’s company delayed it twice over the weekend: once to ensure pre-launch safety checks and run data reviews, and once more due to excessive winds.

“Today, Western Range partnered with the National Reconnaissance Office to deliver a critical national security payload that will provide our warfighters and decision-makers with vital intelligence data,” said Col. Rob Long, Space Launch Delta 30 mission commander, in a statement.

“This is NRO’s 20th launch from the Western Range since 1996 and I am proud of both today’s team and the strong and enduring partnership with NRO. Go NROL-85!”

This is the first NRO mission to reuse a SpaceX booster rocket, the successful Falcon 9, and key objectives of the Space Launch Delta 30 mission include maintaining and operating the Western Range, protecting the public, providing mission safety, and ensuring minimal environmental impact while providing range safety services, facilities, and control for the execution of defense, civil and commercial launches.

NROL-87, launched two months earlier, was the first NRO launch of the reused SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on NROL-85. The first stage of the mission, carrying a national security payload designed, built, and operated by the NRO, returned to land at Landing Zone 4 at Vandenberg AFB.

SpaceX, a pioneer in private space exploration launches, renewed its contract with the government last month for nearly $3.5 billion worth of International Space Station launches and will provide crew transportation services through 2028.

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