SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force in California at 6:13 a.m. PDT (9:13 a.m. EDT; 1313 GMT) Sunday with a top secret payload for the National Reconnaissance Office, the U.S. government’s spy satellite agency. The Falcon 9 booster returned to a vertical landing back at Vandenberg about eight minutes later. SpaceX delayed the launch from Friday due to a technical issue, then decided to skip a launch opportunity Saturday because of unfavorable upper level winds.
SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from California’s Central Coast just before sunrise Saturday, boosting a classified cargo into orbit for the National Reconnaissance Office on what is widely believed to be a naval reconnaissance mission. The mission was delayed from Friday, allowing more time for pre-launch checkouts and data reviews, SpaceX said.
Four private citizens rode into orbit Friday aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft, taking aim on the International Space Station on the first all-commercial mission to visit the research complex. Liftoff from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida occurred at 11:17 a.m. EDT (1517 GMT).
NASA officials said Tuesday they are standing down from a cryogenic loading test on the agency’s Space Launch System moon rocket until after the launch of a commercial crew mission from a neighboring pad at the Kennedy Space Center. A countdown test Monday was delayed by what NASA managers characterized as minor issues, including a liquid oxygen temperature concern and a manual valve that was left in the wrong configuration before teams evacuated the SLS launch pad.