SpaceX to Launch Its First Top Secret SpySat Mission for the US Department of Defense
After successfully launching a reused Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX is about to embark on another first. Elon Musk's commercial spaceflight company is set to launch a top secret SpySat mission for the U.S. Department of Defense this Sunday, April. 30.
There is very little information available about the top secret mission but it will be SpaceX's first time to launch such a mission for the government. The launch will carry a "top secret" payload to space for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office.
NROL-76 will lift off from LC-38A, the historic Launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center. The launch window starts as early as 7 a.m. This is an achievement for SpaceX since the U.S. Department of Defense usually uses Lockheed Martin and Boeing for such missions.
Inverse reported that SpaceX has been taking military contracts for over a year now but hasn't since flown on an actual mission. A successful launch will open a window of opportunity for SpaceX to deliver more national security missions.
Static fire test complete. Targeting Falcon 9 launch of NROL-76 on Sunday, April 30. pic.twitter.com/mk0dQGj17o
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 25, 2017
Recently, SpaceX conducted a Static Fire Test of its booster for the upcoming April 30 launch. During the test, the Falcon 9's two-stage rocket was filled with propellants 70 minutes before they were fired to mimic launch conditions. Since SpaceX is relatively new to these type of missions, some protocols will be imposed. For example, SpaceX employees will have to vouch for secrecy, according to a report.
Before the launch, SpaceX is expected to conduct a Launch Readiness Review (LRR), which will determine if the mission to launch a SpySat for the U.S. National Defense will push through on the scheduled date.
Unlike other SpaceX missions, NROL does not allow a live coverage of the ascent. There would be no live streaming for this one. Nevertheless, the coverage of the booster's return is allowed.