SpaceX has continued its’ stellar 2017 by launching yet another rocket to space, this time under a veil of secrecy. After a successful launch to the International Space Station earlier this year, SpaceX was contracted the United States government to send a spy satellite into orbit. Overall, it was the company’s 34th space-bound mission, but their first for the Department of Defence (DoD). Following the trend from its’ previous launches, SpaceX was able to recuperate its’ booster rocket, which landed without issues and will no doubt be recycled for future missions.
This launch marked the first time the US Government trusted a private company with military technology bound for space. Previously, the DoD used United Launch Alliance (ULA), a partnership of aeronautic giants and military equipment suppliers Lockheed-Martin and Boeing. Whilst information surrounding the capabilities of the spy satellite and its’ mission have been scarce, it has been revealed that it is under the control of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), who plan to use SpaceX at least twice more in the near future.
Full Webcast Video of Falcon 9 booster launch:
The future launches will come in 2018 and 2019, and are described as being for GPS satellites that are run by the NRO. SpaceX’s ability to land military contracts could be a sign of things to come, as ULA’s sole-service launch contract comes to a close in 2019, and with over a dozen estimated DoD launches expected in the upcoming years, it could quickly become a lucrative market for them. Of course, due to the sensitive nature of the payloads, SpaceX has had to limit the accessibility to the launches.
Usually accessible via video for space fans around the world, SpaceX agreed to cut off launch coverage for almost 3 minutes after lift-off, as per an agreement with the NRO. The government operatives refused to comment on the satellites nature, its’ orbit and abilities. They were also unable to tell assembled media if it was a successful launch.
From SpaceX’s perspective however, the mission was a success. They confirmed that the payload was delivered, and the retrieval of the booster was livestreamed as per usual, it landed without any issues. Overall, the company’s first launch for the DoD went resoundingly well, and as General John “Jay” Raymond, the head of US Space Command told reporters, they would be comfortable using SpaceX’s recycled boosters on future missions, with the General noting that previous launches have shown the company has the ability to do so without repercussions.