SpaceX: Launch of NROL-85 US Spy Satellite

On 17th April 2022, a U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) spy satellite was launched into orbit by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. The satellite named NROL-85 was this year’s second mission of the agency and also 2022’s second orbital launch from the Western Range of the USA.

Overview:

  • After the launch, the rocket’s first stage landed back after its separation from the upper stage.
  • This was the 114th booster that has been successfully recovered by SpaceX.
  • The first stage of NROL-85’s previously flew the NROL-87 in February.
  • NROL-85 is the first mission of the NRO to reuse a Falcon 9 rocket booster of SpaceX.
  • The first NRO launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was the NROL-87.
  • In 2019, a contract was received by SpaceX from the U.S. Air Force to launch the NROL-87 and the NROL-85.
  • Since its existence was revealed in 1996, the NROL-85 launch is the 61st launch mission by the agency.
  • This was Falcon 9’s 148th launch and 2022’s 14th mission of this rocket.

About the satellite

This is a classified satellite for the U.S. NRO, hence much information regarding this satellite is not available. At NRO’s request, SpaceX did not broadcast any images of the upper stage of the rocket and the webcast of the launch ended after the landing of the first stage. Classified U.S. intelligence satellites and government surveillance are operated and built by the NRO.

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