Hawthorne-based SpaceX launched a reconnaissance satellite into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Sunday, April 17.
The launch on behalf of the National Reconnaissance Office was previously scheduled for 6:41 a.m. Friday, but was twice delayed over the weekend, once to provide additional time for pre-launch checkouts and data reviews and again on Saturday due to excessive winds in the forecast.
“Today the Western Range teamed with the National Reconnaissance Office to deliver a critical national security payload, which will provide our warfighters and decision-makers with vital intelligence data,” Colonel Rob Long, Space Launch Delta 30 commander, said on Sunday. “This is the 20th NRO launch from the Western Range since 1996 and I’m proud of both the team today and the long-standing and strong partnership with the NRO. Go NROL-85!”
The launch went off at 6:13 a.m.
NROL-85 is the first NRO mission to reuse a SpaceX rocket booster. NROL-87, launched two months earlier, was the first NRO launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket intended to be reused for a future mission.
Following the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9, the mission’s first stage returned to land on Landing Zone 4 at Vandenberg Space Force Base.
Officials said Space Launch Delta 30’s primary responsibilities include maintaining and operating the Western range, safeguarding the public, providing mission assurance and ensuring minimal environmental impact while providing services, facilities and range safety control for the execution of defense, civil and commercial launches.
The comes on the heels of last’s week’s history-making launch for the South Bay rocketbuilder. SpaceX launched three rich businessmen and their astronaut escort to the International Space Station last Friday for more than a week’s stay, as NASA joins Russia in hosting guests at the world’s most expensive tourist destination.
It’s SpaceX’s first private charter flight to the orbiting lab after two years of carrying astronauts there for NASA.
Arriving at the space station Saturday were an American, a Canadian and an Israeli who run investment, real estate and other companies. They’re paying $55 million apiece for the rocket ride and accommodations, all meals included.
Russia has been hosting tourists at the space station — and before that the Mir station — for decades. Just last fall, a Russian movie crew flew up, followed by a Japanese fashion tycoon and his assistant.
NASA is finally getting into the act, after years of opposing space station visitors.
The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft carrying the crew will undock from the ISS at 7:35 a.m. PDT Tuesday, April 19, to start its return to Earth. Splashdown is scheduled for 4:19 a.m. Wednesday, April 20, off the coast of Florida.
The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism