SpaceX successfully launches NROL-76 US military satellite

SpaceX succeeded in its second attempt to launch NROL-76, a classified payload and its first big contract for the U.S. military via the National Reconnaissance Organization (the NRO). While SpaceX couldn’t reveal what the rocket was taking to orbit, it still broadcast the rocket taking off from is LC-39A facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The rocket lifted off from LC-39A at 7:15 AM EDT as planned, ascending quickly to its target orbit. The first stage separated as planned, and set off to return to Earth via a planned controlled landing at LZ-1, SpaceX’s landing pad at Cape Canaveral.

The first launch attempt on Sunday, April 30 was scrubbed due to a sensor issue with just 52 seconds left to go before liftoff. The launch today was a close call, due to high altitude wind velocity, and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk notes that it was actually very, very near to being called off given maximum loads on the Falcon 9 spacecraft.

After the first stage of the rocket separated from the NROL-76 payload and Falcon 9 second stage, it returned to Earth as planned and was recovered by SpaceX via a controlled landing at their LZ-1 landing location at Cape Canaveral in Florida.