SpaceX Lands Its Falcon 9 Rocket After Launching Military Satellite

James Marshall
May 13, 2017

"The first stage has landed back at Landing Zone 1".

For years, the market for launching US military payloads was dominated by the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

As the Verge points out, it was the first time we've seen a long shot of the Falcon 9 separating from the second stage of the rocket and then returning directly back to earth for a flawless landing. If any difficulties developed, a secondary launch window for the NROL-76 mission was to open at 4 a.m. Monday California time, according to SpaceX.

"Launch and landing of the NRO spy satellite was good", he said about 20 minutes after liftoff. The U.S. Defense Department has traditionally relied on United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, for its spy satellite launches.

Last month, Space Exploration Technologies Corp flew its first recovered booster on a second mission, a key step in company founder Elon Musk's quest to cut launch costs.

Live video of the launch showed the first and second stages of the rocket separating about two and a half minutes into the flight.

SpaceX on Monday morning successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA's Kennedy Space Center after Sunday's planned launch was scrubbed over a sensor issue. The 230-foot rocket's first stage - the 14-story high core containing main engines and majority of the fuel - re-entered Earth's atmosphere and touched ground on a landing pad a few miles south of the launch site.

SpaceX regularly launches unmanned cargo ships to the International Space Station and is working on a crew capsule that could carry humans into orbit as early as next year. "The company later dropped the suit, as U.S. Air Force agreed to "[expand] the number of competitive opportunities for launch services".

The operation marked SpaceX's 34th mission in total and its fifth one this year, but the first one for the Defense Department.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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