SpaceX’s final rocket launch of 2020 is a mission for the United States National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). A previously-flown Falcon 9 will launch a classified payload to space. What this mission will deploy remains undisclosed due to national security reasons. All that NRO representatives shared is the payload is called NROL-108 and the mission’s motto is “Peace Through Strength”, alongside a badge of an a fierce gorilla, pictured below. “Gorillas are peaceful animals but can be fierce when necessary. Like the gorilla, our NROL-108 mission is constantly vigilant and ready to defend its own, demonstrating NRO's commitment to protecting U.S. warfighters, interests, and allies,” the intelligence agency stated. UPDATE: SpaceX rescheduled the NROL-108 Mission until Saturday, December 19.
To allow additional time for checkouts, now targeting Saturday, December 19 for Falcon 9’s launch of NROL-108 https://t.co/bJFjLCzWdK— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 18, 2020
Source: National Reconnaissance Office via Twitter
The Falcon 9 rocket that will conduct the NROL-108 mission is awaiting liftoff at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A. This morning, SpaceX attempted to launch the rocket but the mission was aborted minutes before liftoff. “Falcon 9 auto-abort called at T-1:53 due to a second stage sensor reading. Today’s launch window closes at 12:00 p.m. EST,” SpaceX announced.
Falcon 9 auto-abort called at T-1:53 due to a second stage sensor reading. Today’s launch window closes at 12:00 p.m. EST.— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 17, 2020
SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared the auto-abort was caused by –“Pressure [that was] is slightly high in upper stage liquid oxygen tank. Review underway,” he said after the launch abort took place this morning. "Standing down for today to inspect rocket. Hopefully launching tomorrow," he said. Later, the company announced the mission would be conducted until Friday morning. “Standing down from today’s launch attempt of NROL-108 to take a closer look at the data; Falcon 9 and NROL-108 remain healthy,” SpaceX stated, “Teams are working toward a backup launch opportunity of tomorrow with a three-hour window opening at 9:00 a.m. EST.” You can watch SpaceX's next launch attempt in the video below, starting Friday, December 18, at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time.
Standing down for today to inspect rocket. Hopefully launching tomorrow.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 17, 2020
The NROL-108 mission will the Falcon 9 rocket’s first-stage booster fifth flight. The booster identified as B1059 previously launched of SpaceX’s 19th and 20th cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station, a Starlink mission, and the SAOCOM 1B mission. The company plans to recover B1059 a fifth time by landing it on the Cape Canaveral Air Foce Station's Landing Zone-1. Engineers aim to achieve reusing a particular Falcon 9 first-stage at least ten times to significantly reduce the cost of spaceflight. The most a particular Falcon 9 rocket booster has flown is seven times. SpaceX is currently the only company in the world capable of reliably reusing boosters, the company has landed 69 orbital-class rockets and reused 48.
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About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.