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April 19, 2022

SpaceX launches US National Reconnaissance Office mission NROL-85

NROL-85 is the first NRO mission to reuse a SpaceX rocket booster.

A Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Falcon 9 rocket has successfully launched a surveillance satellite for the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

The Falcon 9 rocket carrying NRO Launch (NROL-85) lifted off on 17 April from the Space Launch Complex-4 East at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, US.

Space Launch Delta 30 commander Colonel Rob Long was the decision authority for the launch.

Long said: “Today, the Western Range teamed with the National Reconnaissance Office to deliver a critical national security payload, which will provide our warfighters and decision-makers with vital intelligence data.

“This is the 20th NRO launch from the Western Range since 1996 and I’m proud of both the team today and the longstanding and strong partnership with the NRO.”

With the current launch, NROL-85 marks the first NRO mission to reuse a SpaceX rocket booster.

In February 2022, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the first stage of the mission, NROL-87, and was intended to be reused for future missions.

After launching the first stage, the SpaceX Falcon 9 returned to land on the Landing Zone 4 at Vandenberg Space Force Base.

NORL-85 is also the second Falcon 9 launch procured via a National Security Space Launch (NSSL) contract to launch from the Western Range.

The primary responsibility of Space Launch Delta 30 is to maintain and operate the Western range, providing mission assurance and safeguarding the public.

Other responsibilities include ensuring minimal environmental impact to provide services for executing civil and commercial launches by the US Department of Defense (DoD).

In 2020, another spy satellite for the US NRO was launched by the United Launch Alliance (ULA).

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