SpaceX on Monday blasted off a secretive U.S. government satellite, known only as NROL-76, marking the first military launch for the California-based aerospace company headed by billionaire tycoon Elon Musk. Across the country, cheers erupted at SpaceX Mission Control at company headquarters in Hawthorne.
NROL-76, the designation for the classified satellite launch, was SpaceX's first dedicated mission for the military. The company recovered a rocket's first stage for the first time in December 2015 and accomplished this an additional nine times since then.
The mission was SpaceX's first for the Department of Defense, a customer Musk has been trying to do business with for a while now.
An initial launch attempt on Sunday morning was scrubbed.
On Monday morning, SpaceX successfully landed its Falcon 9 rocket on solid ground again after launching it from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The 23-story tall rocket took off from its seaside launch pad at Kennedy Space Center at 7:15 a.m. EDT. The launch was delayed by one day to resolve a problem with a first-stage engine sensor.
It was the company's fourth zone landing and the 10th overall successful landing of the first stage booster.
Due to the classified nature of the NROL-76 launch, SpaceX has not released details regarding the satellite's orbital slot or its specific goal. Apparently the wind shear "was at 98.6% of the theoretical load limit". Instead of using a booster once and discarding it, SpaceX plans to use its rockets multiple times for many different missions, refurbishing them in between.
SpaceX sued the US Air Force in 2014 over its exclusive multibillion-dollar contract with United Launch Alliance. More reflights are possible this year, and SpaceX has leased a Port Canaveral facility to accommodate what Musk has said is a growing "forest of rocket boosters".
SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk said via Twitter that both the launch and landing were good.