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U.S. Spy Satellites Successfully Launched for the First Time This Year by SpaceX

The satellite industry is among the fastest-growing ones related to space. So much so that there’s a real concern regarding space debris and even interruptions to space observations due to the enormous number of satellites being launched. But some of them, called spy satellites, are vital for space security, which is another essential aspect of the booming industry outside of Earth.
The NRO launched its first spy satellites this year, with the help of the SpaceX Falcon 9 6 photos
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The National Reconnaissance Office says that it launches and operates the most capable spy satellites in the world, either acquired or developed by it also. This translates to space-based intelligence collection, as well as surveillance and reconnaissance – basically, ISR missions that are carried out in space instead of the regular battlefields.

The most recent launch of the NRO’s NROL-87 program is the culmination of its security-related launch of classified payloads. The agency started publicly disclosing launches back in 1996, and this recent event marked its 60th launch.

The spy satellites were launched into orbit by SpaceX from the Complex 4E at the Vandenberg Space Force Base, west of Los Angeles. The NRO had launched payloads from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket twice before, but this was the first Falcon 9 that was acquired through the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) program. This program provides continuous access to space for this type of national security missions and it’s overseen by the U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command.

The top-security payload was successfully flown to space, after which the first-stage reusable rocket booster made its way back safely at Vandenberg. “This launch demonstrates our ability to build the best-in-class systems to protect the United States and our allies from threats in and from space,” said the director of NRO’s Office of Space Launch, Col. Chad Davis.

This was the agency’s first launch this year, following eight others that were carried out over the past 24 months. The data collected with the help of these spy satellites are essential for the National Security Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and other partners that ensure America’s safety and strength in space.

 Download attachment: NRO Launches First Payload this year, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket (PDF)


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