CAP CAN CANERERAL, Fla. – SpaceX is set to launch a spy satellite into orbit for the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) on Thursday (17 December), and you can watch the action online.
The flight is planned to fly from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, which opens at 9 a.m. EST (1400 GMT) during a three-hour window. However, the exact liftoff time has not yet been announced.
You can see the live launch on SpaceX’s homepage, starting about 15 minutes before liftoff. You will also be able to see the launch directly from SpaceX here.
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The mission will mark the 31st launch this year for SpaceX and its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket, along with the third Falcon 9 to fly a little over a week. On 6 December, SpaceX kicked off its final launch run of the year by ferrying an advanced cargo dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station, marking the first time that there were two such craft attached to the orbital outpost. A few days later, the California-based rocket builder launched a radio satellite into orbit for the Sirius XM.
Now, SpaceX will kick off the record-setting year with a bang. The company announced that the mission has been dubbed NROL-108, which includes a rare treatment: an upright Falcon 9 booster landing on Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, as in the more common Cone. -Shape is the opposite of landing. sea.
To date, SpaceX has successfully recovered 69 first-stage boosters, 20 of which touched down on Terra Pharma. For its 70th part, the company’s Falcon 9 would reach only 9 miles (14 kilometers) of the company’s landing sites below where it had risen. SpaceX warned Central Florida residents that they should expect to hear a sound boom as the rocket touches on the LZ-1.
“There is a possibility that local residents may hear one or more sound booms during the landing attempt,” SpaceX officials said in an advisory sent to the media. “Brevard County residents are likely to hear one or more sound booms, although residents’ experience will depend on weather conditions and other factors.”
Officials with the US Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron have said the weather looks good for Thursday’s effort, with a 70% chance of favorable conditions for launch. The main issues of concern are lift cloud winds and potential for a thick cloud layer.
related: A ride hitch to space (and back) on a Falcon 9 in this awesome video
The star of today’s mission will be one of SpaceX’s frequent flying passengers – a Falcon 9 first stage known as B1059. This will mark the booster’s fifth launch and landing effort. Earlier it had relaunched two separate Dragon cargoes to the International Space Station (CRS-19 in December 2019 and CRS-20 in March of this year), launched the Starlink 8 mission in June, and more recently SABOM-1B Earth was lofted – satellite observation in orbit for Argentina on 30 August.
Thursday’s flight will mark the 102nd overall launch of a Falcon 9 rocket and the 70th first stage recovery. SpaceX’s drone ship “Course I Still Love You” has been sidelined for this mission as the booster will attempt a touchdown on the ground for the second time in a row. (Earlier in August it landed on the LZ-1 after taking SAOCOM-1B into space.) This touchdown would take place about nine minutes after liftoff.
The company’s other drone ship, “Just Read the Instructions” is en route to Port Canaveral, which kills the flier seven times. That booster, the B1049, became the second in SpaceX’s fleet of SpaceX rockets to launch and land seven times when it launched the first of two mass radio broadcast satellites in space for Sirius XM on Sunday (13 December) . The second Sirius XM satellite is set to launch sometime next year, and the pair is expected to replace aging satellites already in orbit.
One of SpaceX’s net-equipped boats, the Go Tree, is heading into the recovery zone to await today’s launch. It is not yet clear whether the vessel will attempt to catch Falcon 9’s falling payload fairing – the protective “nose cone” that surrounds a satellite during launch – or if SpaceX will scoop just two halves from the ocean. (Whether or not a catch is attempted depends on several factors, including weather and sea conditions in the recovery zone.)
SpaceX has been successful in its efforts to reuse more of Falcon 9, even reusing multiple fairies on multiple missions. Payload fairing is about 10% of the cost of the rocket, which is approximately $ 62 million. Fusing fairing could save $ 6 million per flight, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has said.
The company is reusing payload fairing, and even used its first refurbished fairing on a paying customer flight. The Sirius XM-7 was a fair half of the mission that first flew on the Anassis-2 mission earlier this summer, which launched a communications satellite for the South Korean military.
Today’s mission will mark the final launch from Florida for 2020. A total of 31 missions have been launched from the region this year and 26 of them are on SpaceX rockets.
Follow Amy Thompson on Twitter @astrogingersnap. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.