SpaceX launched a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office on Monday after a first stage sensor problem halted a countdown Sunday. Liftoff from launch pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida occurred at 7:15 a.m. EDT (1115 GMT), and the first stage landed at nearby Cape Canaveral around nine minutes later. The upper stage’s flight entered a pre-planned news blackout a few minutes after launch.
SpaceX chief Elon Musk said last week he is “fairly confident” his company’s Falcon rockets can be made fully reusable within a couple of years, suggesting a renewed emphasis on outfitting upper stages for a scorching re-entry after engineers shelved the idea to focus on landing the launcher’s bigger booster stage.
Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos, now the second-richest person in the world, is funding his space company’s lofty ambitions $1 billion per year, driving Blue Origin closer to taking paying passengers to the edge of space and fielding a reusable satellite launcher that will usher in a golden age of space exploration, the billionaire tycoon said Wednesday.
There’s a lot on SpaceX’s agenda this year if the company can maintain its pace, including refinements of the Falcon 9 rocket to hasten refurbishment between flights and the debut of the long-delayed Falcon Heavy launch vehicle with two side boosters recycled from previous missions, Elon Musk said after last week’s successful liftoff of a previously-flown rocket.