For now, the military's business is a fraction of more than 70 missions, worth more than $10 billion, slated to fly on SpaceX rockets. But with up to 13 more military satellite launches open for competitive bidding in the next few years and ULA's lucrative sole-source contract due to end in 2019, SpaceX is angling to become a major launch service provider to the Department of Defense.
At the request of the NRO, SpaceX cut off launch coverage 2 minutes and 48 seconds after liftoff, some 30 seconds after the booster’s first-stage separated from the upper-stage. At that time, the rocket's second-stage had fired up to carry the spy satellite into a low-Earth orbit , SpaceX’s launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration showed.
The NRO declined to provide further details about the satellite or its orbit.
SpaceX continued to broadcast the booster's return flight and touchdown at the company's nearby Landing Zone 1at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
"And we have touchdown! The first stage has landed back at Landing Zone 1," SpaceX lead mechanical design engineer John Federspiel said during launch commentary. "Another good day for us at SpaceX. That is a beautiful sight to see."