CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A SpaceX Falcon rocket lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday (May 1) to boost a classified spy satellite into orbit for the U.S. military, then turned around and touched down at a nearby landing pad.
It was the 34th mission for SpaceX, but its first flight for the Department of Defense, a customer long-pursued by company founder Elon Musk. The privately owned SpaceX once sued the Air Force over its exclusive launch services contract with United Launch Alliance (ULA), a partnership of Lockheed-Martin and Boeing.
Monday's 7:15 a.m. EDT (1115 GMT) liftoff of a classified satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) officially broke ULA's 10-year monopoly on launching U.S. military and national security satellites. [In Photos: SpaceX's First US Military Satellite Launch]
Launch was delayed one day to resolve a problem with a first-stage engine sensor.
NRO Launch Services Integrator contractor Ball Aerospace arranged for the Falcon 9 flight on behalf of the NRO, said agency spokeswoman Karen Furgerson.