Yesterday, SpaceX pulled off yet another successful launch and landing of its Falcon 9 rocket. This rocket, its 10th to launch and land intact, carried NROL-76, a classified satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office. That is to say, a spy satellite.
This is the first spy sat delivered by SpaceX — something that could well lead to a windfall of government contracts from the likes of the Air Force or NOAA (if their funding remains) to come to Elon Musk’s company. But the bigger feat here is that SpaceX has started to make the launch and landing of a first-stage rocket seem downright routine. Even during the Space Shuttle years, NASA had to discard an external tank on every launch and spend months refitting the two solid rocket boosters. SpaceX’s feat may well be the money-saving step that we need for space travel to become profitable — and therefore more common.
Check out the separation and landing of the rocket — a fiery technological marvel — in a post by Elon Musk above, or watch the full launch below.