On Sunday morning, April 17, 2022, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket with a payload reserved for the US government’s spy satellite NRO (National Reconnaissance Office) and landed the booster at the Vandenberg Space Force base in California.
The 70-meter-high launcher took off from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex 4-East at 6:13 am local time (3.13 pm CET) on Sunday local time. The nine Merlin 1D engines, which burn kerosene and produce more than 700 tons of supercooled liquid oxygen thrust, are located between Los Angeles and San Francisco, a military base on the Falcon 9 southeast of Vandenberg, on the central coast of California. Flying to the edge of space, the rocket’s reusable first stage shuts down its nine engines and sets the mission apart in less than two and a half minutes. Cold gas nitrogen thrusters fired to turn the rocket into a tail adaptation, then three motors were re-ignited to bring the booster back to Vandenberg.
The stadium has extended titanium grille fins to help guide the booster back into the atmosphere. The rocket returns to self-guided landing zone 4, a landing pad just 400 meters from the Falcon 9 launch site. A final braking firing from the rocket’s central engine slowed the booster to land, and the rocket extended its four carbon fiber telescopic legs shortly before. Its landing took place throughout the operation in a foggy environment. The landing took place eight minutes after take-off, ending the second journey of this particular booster into space. B1071 Stadium actually made its debut in February with another launch for the National Reconnaissance Office, NROL-87.
In the photo, the B1071 landed in the first stage on the LZ-4 pad at the Vandenberg Space Force Base. Credit: SpaceX
The SpaceX mission’s live webcast focuses on the return of the booster. The public webcast concludes its live video coverage from the second minute of takeoff, honoring a request from the NRO to keep details of its mission secret. The upper stage of the Falcon 9 delivered its top secret cargo into initial orbit within 10 minutes of launch. The rocket also dropped two defensive semi-noospaces on the payload, which was supposed to be rescued from a ship in the Pacific Ocean near Vandenberg.
About an hour after takeoff, the NRO declared the launch a success. “I am proud of the teamwork, skills and determination that have helped make this launch a success and ultimately provide important information to our country’s policy-making, military and intelligence communities.“The mission is codenamed NROL-85,” said NRO Director Chris Scholes.Although we are unable to discuss the specifics of this launch, we can be sure that in 2022 we will have more than half a dozen scheduled launches and a dozen payloads in orbit.“NRO spokesman Nathan Potter said.”We can also confirm that NRO is the only payload launched as part of the NRO-85 mission and no other secondary payload.“
The NRO builds and launches satellites to detect and track ship movements. Prior to Sunday’s launch, there was widespread agreement among independent analysts that the NROL-85 mission would add two new spacecraft to the U.S. government’s naval recovery satellite fleet. Ted Molkjan, an experienced military satellite tracker, told Spaceflight Now he was sure. “At 100%“The payloads of the NROL-85 mission that will be launched will be the next pair of intruder-class ship tracking spacecraft.
The symbol of the NROL-85 mission in the picture shows the cat reflected in the tiger that a strong attitude helps to succeed in the enterprise. Credit: NRO
The conditions of the NROL-85 mission – its target altitude, inclination and launch time – all indicate that the Falcon 9 rocket is carrying the next pair of infiltrating naval reconnaissance satellites, experts say. The intruding spacecraft is sometimes called the Naval Ocean Surveillance System or NOSS Satellite. The U.S. military, which oversees launch purchases for the NRO mission, awarded a contract to SpaceX to launch NROL-85 in 2019. In military procurement documents, officials said the NROL-85 mission would aim to place its payload in an orbit between 1,024 and 1,221. Kilometers at altitude with a slope of 63.5 degrees relative to the equator.
These orbital parameters correspond to the known heights and trends of the previous infiltrating satellites. Air and sea warnings related to the Falcon 9 launch on Sunday confirmed that the rocket is expected to follow a trajectory southeast of Vandenberg, aligned with the target’s orbit at a 63.5 degree inclination. NROL-85 Mission Hall “Almost certainly“The next pair of intruder satellites, or NOSS orbits,” Marco Langbrook, a Dutch archaeologist and satellite movement expert, wrote in an Internet post before the launch.
Launch of Falcon 9 rocket for NROL-85 mission in the picture Credit: NRO
The intrusion satellite collects information used by the U.S. Navy and government intelligence agencies. “They determine the geography of high-ocean expeditions, detect their radio / radar emissions,“Langbrook writes on his website. It adds”They always work in close pairs.Additionally, Sunday’s launch time coincided closely with the time an old pair of intruder satellites passed over the orbital plane Vandenberg, suggesting two new spacecraft could be alternatives, according to Langbrock.
The latest launch of the NRO Naval Surveillance Satellite has used the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket. The most recent pair of intruder satellites launched from Vandenberg on an Atlas 5 occurred in 2017, and two satellites that passed close to Vandenberg during Friday’s launch were launched from the Atlas 5 in 2012.
SpaceX is preparing to launch two more Falcon 9 rockets from the Florida Space Coast later this week. A Falcon 9 will depart from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station Pad 40 on Thursday 21 April for the Starlink mission, then the next Crew Dragon flight with Crew-4 astronauts will depart from Pad 39A for the International Space Station (ISS) on Saturday 23 April. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
For SpaceX, this was the 14th launch of 2022, the 148th launch of the Falcon 9 rocket overall, the 108th first-stage landing, the first NRO flight with the 88th reusable booster and used booster. It was the 41st global orbit launch in 2022, the 40th to be successfully completed.