SpaceX Launch Disclosed By NRO

SpaceX has made a historic landing on May 6 with its Falcon 9 rocket on a ship deck in the Atlantic Ocean. Although it has suffered some major damage, this does not stop plans on future launching.

According to SpaceNews, a spokeswoman for the intelligence agency said on May 18, Wednesday, that SpaceX is already scheduled to launch a National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) payload in March 2017 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in the state of Florida. However, SpaceX did not announce this said launch.

NRO builds and operates the American spy satellites. For this reason, few details of the launch missions are made public. The agency has previously mentioned regarding the contract with SpaceX in public but only for once, which was during a congressional hearing three years ago, in 2013.  

The March 2017 mission is known as NROL-76. Further details were not immediately available about the cost of the launch, which rocket SpaceX would use to lift the satellite, or whether the mission was competitively bid, according to a NRO spokeswoman.

During a question-and-answer session at the GEOINT 2016 conference, Betty Sapp, the director of the NRO, said her agency had purchased launches from SpaceX. Sapp praised the Hawthorne, California-based company for innovations that advance rocket building technologies.

SpaceX previous launches have included NRO payloads only one time. As part of NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Demonstration Flight 1, an NRO cubesat flew as a secondary payload aboard a Falcon 9 in December 2010.

According to the website pddnet.com, SpaceX's mission that will carry a payload into orbit for the NRO is scheduled in March 2017, from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This would mark the second known collaboration between the intelligence agency and the private space company. 

The NRO mission is not currently listed on SpaceX's launch manifest and it is unknown whether the private space company will use the Falcon Heavy or the Falcon 9 to list the NRO satellite into the orbit.

NRO has confirmed that SpaceX will conduct the mission NRPOL-76 but the private company itself is referring questions back to the intelligence government agency. Loretta DeSio, a NRO spokesperson, declared that the agency is anticipating the possibility of SpaceX part participating in additional missions.

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