The U.S. Space Force said it’s working with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to launch top-secret spy satellites into orbit with the reusable Falcon Heavy rocket, according to Bloomberg on Thursday.
The Space Force told Bloomberg in a statement that the launches will be part of the National Security Space Launch mission, with the first launch taking place between October and December this year.
The first satellite will be launched for the National Reconnaissance Office (NR), which is “committed to protecting the security of the United States, its citizens and its allies through unparalleled capabilities in space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance,” according to the office’s website.
“A diversified architecture of spacecraft provides information critical to policymakers, the Department of Defense, two dozen federal agencies, the Intelligence Community, the military, and commercial partners,” the NRO website states. “This is both our legacy and our mission for the future – ensuring the United States maintains and expands its advantage amid increasing challenges from our adversaries.”
The Space Force, which first certified SpaceX to launch spy satellites in June, told Bloomberg that the “recovery, refurbishment, and launch of SpaceX boosters utilizes well-established processes.”
“The certification to use previously flown side boosters further supports the alternative business model SpaceX has used to break into the space launch market,” said Todd Harrison, a space systems analyst.
By using SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9 rockets for previous missions, the Space Force has saved over $64 million dollars, according to Walter Lauderdale, chief of Falcon division in Space Systems Command, Bloomberg reported.
SpaceX describes the Falcon 9 as the “first orbital class rocket capable of reflight.”
“Falcon 9 is a reusable, two-stage rocket designed and manufactured by SpaceX for the reliable and safe transport of people and payloads into Earth orbit and beyond,” SpaceX website states. “Falcon 9 is the world’s first orbital class reusable rocket. Reusability allows SpaceX to refly the most expensive parts of the rocket, which in turn drives down the cost of space access.”
Earlier this month, the NRO launched another spy satellite in the Pacific just one day before China swarmed Taiwan with more than a dozen warships and nearly 70 warplanes. The launch is the second of two missions, the first of which was launched on July 13.
The pair of missions demonstrate the office’s “capability to launch multiple rockets from overseas locations within weeks of one another,” the office asserted, adding that speed and agility are critical factors when working with government partners “to keep the world safe and secure.”