Elon Musk’s SpaceX program has just successfully launched a United States government spy satellite using their Falcon 9 rocket. The Falcon 9 mission was code named NROL-76 and lifted off from the SpaceX launch pad at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. For obvious reasons, details about the satellite were not given out only that the mission was for the United States National Reconnaissance Office. The event was live streamed on YouTube and can be watched below.
NROL-76 will launch on Falcon 9, a two-stage rocket designed from the ground up by SpaceX for the reliable and cost-efficient transport of satellites and SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft. As the first rocket completely developed in the 21st century, Falcon 9 was designed from the beginning for maximum reliability. Falcon 9’s simple two-stage configuration minimizes the number of separation events – and with nine first stage engines, it can safely complete its mission even in the event of an engine shutdown.
Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center has a long and storied history dating back to the early 1960s. Originally built to support the Apollo program, LC-39A supported the first Saturn V launch (Apollo 4), and many subsequent Apollo missions, including Apollo 11 in July 1969. Beginning in the late 1970s, LC-39A was modified to support Space Shuttle launches, hosting the first and last shuttle missions to orbit in 1981 and 2011 respectively.
In 2014, SpaceX signed a 20-year lease with NASA for the use of historic Launch Complex 39A. Since then, the company has made significant upgrades to modernize the pad’s structures and ground systems, while also preserving its important heritage. Extensive modifications to LC-39A have been made to support launches of both commercial and crew missions on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles.