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SpaceX Launches first classified mission for the U.S

SpaceX postpones 'secretive' US military launch for 24 hours Representational image
Manuel Armenta | 03 May, 2017, 06:14

And given that SpaceX is promising lower launch costs across the board (and even lower costs in the future thanks to reusable first stage Falcon 9 boosters), it could spell trouble for ULA, which previously sued to remain the sole launch partner for the Department of Defense.

Another Falcon 9 is being prepared to launch a commercial satellite from Kennedy Space Center as soon as May 15.

The 230-foot Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, with the rocket's first stage (which contains all the main engines) returning to Earth nine minutes later.

The flight appeared to be off to a good start, but SpaceX cut off its launch broadcast a few minutes into the flight to help preserve its secrecy, as is standard practice during NRO missions, USA Monday reported.

Central Floridians living as far as Winter Park reportedly heard the rocket's sonic boom upon its return to Earth.

This is the 10th time SpaceX has successfully landed a rocket, coming about a month after it became the first transport space service to successfully reuse a space-bound rocket.

In March, SpaceX successfully re-launched a used booster - or "flight proven", in SpaceX terminology - for the first time for a commercial satellite mission.

The classified payload for this morning's NROL-76 launch is suspected to be a data relay satellite, according to Space News.

Musk's Falcon 9 received certification from the U.S. Air Force in 2015, paving the way for SpaceX to handle national security missions and enter a business long dominated by a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

"Launch and landing of the NRO spy satellite was good", he said after liftoff.

"Tough call, as high altitude wind shear was at 98.6 percent of the theoretical load limit", he said in a tweet. "Worrying but not a showstopper".

When SpaceX is not landing boosters on land, they are landing them on barge-like ship, which is stationed in Port Canaveral. The launch, originally planned for Sunday, was delayed 24 hours due to a sensor issue.