On February 2nd, SpaceX launched a classified spy satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The NRO is a government agency that works with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The NRO is responsible for the development and deployment of intelligence-gathering satellites. The spy agency does not publicize information about the mysterious payloads it launches, all that is known about the mission is that is designated as NROL-87 and the mission patch features a ‘watchful’ wild mountain goat atop a mountain peak. “Since 1961, the NRO has pushed the envelope of U.S. space-based intelligence collection with boldness and ingenuity. Today, NRO’s innovative legacy continues to thrive as it develops, acquires, launches, and operates the world’s most capable spy satellites,” said NRO in a press release. “NROL-87 will strengthen NRO’s ability to provide a wide-range of timely intelligence information to national decision-makers, warfighters, and intelligence analysts to protect the nation’s vital interests and support humanitarian efforts worldwide.” A brand new Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base’s Launch Complex-4 East on Wednesday at 12:27 p.m. PST, carrying the NROL-87 payload to orbit. It is the first mission of 2022 launched from California.
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/pvsB7IqKSj— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 2, 2022
Approximately 8-minutes after liftoff, Falcon 9’s first-stage booster successfully landed on Landing Zone-4. It marked the company’s 105th landing of an orbital-class rocket and the 143rd launch. According to SpaceX’s director of national security launches Michael Ellis, the recovered rocket will be refurbished for a future NRO mission. The booster is identified as B1071. SpaceX engineers aim to use each Falcon 9 first-stage at least 10 times to significantly decrease the cost of spaceflight. The most SpaceX has flown a particular booster is 11 times. SpaceX’s NROL-87 Live broadcast was cut short on request of the U.S. military soon after the booster touched down, there is no footage of the payload being released to orbit.
Falcon 9’s first stage has landed pic.twitter.com/E22NvEiKe0— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 2, 2022
“This launch demonstrates our ability to build the best-in-class systems to protect the United States and our allies from threats in and from space,” said Col. Chad Davis, director of NRO’s Office of Space Launch. “Our partners at SpaceX and U.S. Space Force were vital to the success of this mission today, and their outstanding capabilities make these highly technical missions look routine.”
“The success of NROL-87 was the result of multiple partnerships and the innovation of our people,” said NRO Director Dr. Chris Scolese. “Technology is ever changing. The relationships we build enable us to recognize solutions faster to ensure we field the latest capabilities. Our people continue to prove they are our greatest asset, solving the most complex problems in new and innovative ways,” they stated in a press release.
Featured Image Source: SpaceX