SpaceX's final mission of the year will launch a secretive payload for the U.S. Government this week

SpaceX's final mission of the year will launch a secretive payload for the U.S. Government this week

SpaceX will end a busy 2020 conducting a secretive mission for the United States National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The final mission of the year will launch a classified government payload to space atop a Falcon 9 rocket. What this mission will deploy remains a secret due to national security reasons. NRO representatives announced that the mission is called NROL-108. The NROL-108 mission will be SpaceX's 26 launch this year –the most annual launches the company has performed in history. 

NRO representatives shared SpaceX will launch the NROL-108 payload no earlier than [NET] tomorrow, Thursday, December 17. A Falcon 9 rocket is set to liftoff from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A during a launch window scheduled from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time; A backup launch opportunity is also scheduled for Friday, December 18 [date is subject to change]. SpaceX has not officially released any details about this mission yet. This article will be updated once more information is available. UPDATE: SpaceX confirms launch date. You can watch the mission Live in the video below tomorrow morning. 



The intelligence agency rarely provides details about its payloads, however, agency representatives released the NROL-108 mission patch design on Tuesday. The patch features a gorilla beating its chest alongside a text that reads, “Peace Through Strength” (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. Launch scheduled NET Dec. 17 w/ SpaceX,” the agency announced on December 14 via Twitter. Perhaps, the secretive NROL-108 payload SpaceX will launch this week could be a satellite that gathers a variety of data to protect the country. “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 NRO stated. 


The U.S. Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron forecasts 70% favorable weather conditions during SpaceX’s launch window. “Overnight Wednesday into Thursday morning, a strong high-pressure system moving east from southern Texas will bring cooler, drier air to the Space Coast,” the 45th Weather Squadron said Tuesday. “The primary weather concern for Thursday is liftoff winds and the thick cloud layer rule associated with any lingering frontal cloudiness." Weather conditions must be favorable because SpaceX plans to recover the Falcon 9’s first-stage booster soon after deploying the mysterious NROL-108 payload to orbit. The 162-foot first stage booster is expected to separate from the rocket’s second-stage to descend back to Earth. It will land on Landing Zone 1 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, approximately 9-miles South of Launch Pad 39A. Recovering Falcon 9 first-stage boosters enables SpaceX to reduce the cost of spaceflight by reusing the booster on future missions. UPDATE: SpaceX shared the booster that will support the NROL-108 Mission "previously supported launch of SpaceX’s 19th and 20th cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station, a Starlink mission, and the SAOCOM 1B mission."



About the Author

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn Arevalo

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.

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