SpaceX is preparing to launch the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office's (NRO) classified NROL-85 mission. "In less than two weeks, #NROL85 will be launching from Vandenberg Space Force Base on April 15 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket between 5:59-7:25 a.m. PST. Stay tuned for live updates on launch day," NRO announced. There are no public details about the mysterious NROL-85 payload. The U.S. military and intelligence agencies routinely launch top secret satellites and spacecraft without telling the public what its specific purpose is. NRO operates satellites designed to provide intelligence data to the United States Department of Defense (DoD), senior policy makers, as well as other members of the intelligence community. NRO manages a constellation of dozens of national security satellites that are already orbiting our planet. "The NRO has been the nation's eyes and ears in space for almost six decades–developing, launching and operating sophisticated overhead reconnaissance systems to meet the national security needs of the nation," the agency stated.
In less than two weeks, #NROL85 will be launching from Vandenberg Space Force Base (@SLDelta30) on April 15 aboard a @SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket between 5:59-7:25 a.m. PST. Stay tuned for live updates on launch day. #getready #AttitudeIsEverything pic.twitter.com/1ODtVNLiC5— NRO (@NatReconOfc) April 4, 2022
SpaceX shared on Tuesday, April 5, that it completed a static-fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket that will launch the NROL-85 mission. "[...] The Falcon 9 first stage supporting this mission previously launched NROL-87 in February," said the company. A static-fire test involves the brief ignition of the rocket’s nine Merlin 1D engines. Engineers fuel the Falcon 9 with rocket-grade kerosene, known as RP-1, and liquid oxygen (LOX) and ignite all engines for a few seconds while the booster remains grounded to the launch pad with hold-on clamps. Falcon 9 is capable of producing over 1.7 million pounds of thrust upon liftoff. The static-firing is a routine pre-flight preparation which provides engineers with data to ensure it is ready for launch.
The NRO has the most creative spaceflight mission patches. The NROL-85 mission patch was revealed this week, shown below. It is a cute graphic of a cat looking at its reflection in a puddle of water and sees itself as a tiger. The mission's slogan is - 'Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.' "Each launch patch tells a story. For NROL-85, 3 stars represent guidance, protection & allegiance. The tiger in the cat’s reflection demonstrates that while space can be challenging, a determined attitude helps NRO go Above and Beyond to protect our nation," said NRO representatives via Twitter.
Static fire test of Falcon 9 complete – targeting Friday, April 15 for launch of the NROL-85 mission from Vandenberg in California. The Falcon 9 first stage supporting this mission previously launched NROL-87 in February. pic.twitter.com/PlrARy0G2s— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 5, 2022
Each launch patch tells a story. For #NROL85, 3 stars represent guidance, protection & allegiance. The tiger in the cat’s reflection demonstrates that while space can be challenging, a determined attitude helps NRO go #AboveandBeyond to protect our nation. #attitudeiseverything pic.twitter.com/lfS8XULZa7— NRO (@NatReconOfc) April 3, 2022
Featured Image Source: U.S. National Reconnaissance Office NROL-85 Mission badge.