Given the classified nature of the launch, we were denied access to many specific details relating to the launch, and the feed of the second stage was cut shortly after it separated from the Falcon 9 first stage. We should also note that this was first big U.S. Department of Defense contract for SpaceX, and given the successful launch, we expect that SpaceX’s launch schedule will be littered with additional military missions.
The U.S. military has primarily relied on the United Launch Alliance (ULA), which is a partnership between Lockheed-Martin and Boeing, for its sensitive satellite launches, so this is a big achievement for SpaceX. And given that SpaceX is promising lower launch costs across the board (and even lower costs in the future thanks to reusable first stage Falcon 9 boosters), it could spell trouble for ULA, which previously sued to remain the sole launch partner for the Department of Defense.
The launch was originally scheduled for Sunday at 7:00am but a sensor issue delayed the launch by one day. That’s what brought us to today’s launch, which took place at 7:15am.
As momentous as this day was for SpaceX with regards to a successful “test run” for the Department of Defense, it also successfully landed the Falcon 9 first-stage booster back on the company’s Landing Zone 1 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. SpaceX has made multiple landings on both land and water with its Falcon 9 boosters, and seems to have a pretty good grip on its efforts to promote reusability.
Today’s successful launch and landing comes a month after SpaceX successfully launched (and landed) a previously recovered Falcon 9 booster. "This is going to be ultimately a huge revolution in spaceflight," said Musk in a video message last month after that successful return-to-flight. "It's the difference between if you had airplanes where you threw away an airplane after every flight versus you could reuse them multiple times."
Things are definitely looking “up” for SpaceX, and the company’s aspirations to put Americans astronauts back into space appears to be right on track.
(Top Image Courtesy Heisenberg Media/flickr)