At 6:13 a.m. on Sunday, a National Reconnaissance Office mission was launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex-4 East at Vandenberg Space Force Base.
The launch, originally scheduled for Friday, was delayed twice. It was postponed to Saturday morning, then delayed again to Sunday.
The launch successfully took place Sunday morning. After stage separations took place, the first stage successfully landed and was seen on the webcast. It was the 114th overall successful recovery of a first stage booster.
“Today the Western Range teamed with the National Reconnaissance Office to deliver a critical national security payload, which will provide our warfighters and decision-makers with vital intelligence data. This is the 20th NRO launch from the Western Range since 1996 and I’m proud of both the team today and the long-standing and strong partnership with the NRO. Go NROL-85!” said Col. Rob Long, Space Launch Delta 30 commander.
“NROL-85 is the first NRO mission to reuse a SpaceX rocket booster. NROL-87, launched only two months earlier, was the first NRO launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket intended to be reused for a future mission,” according to a news release from Vandenberg.
NROL-85 is the second Falcon 9 Launch procured through the National Security Space Launch contract that launched from the Western Range. The mission’s first stage returned to land on Landing Zone 4 at Vandenberg Space Force Base.
As the vehicle re-entered, spectators and local residents of Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties would have heard multiple sonic booms as the vehicle broke the sound barrier.
“A sonic boom is the sound associated with the shock waves from an aircraft or launch vehicle traveling faster than the speed of sound,” Vandenberg explained in its news release. “Sonic booms generate a sound similar to an explosion or a clap of thunder and the degree experienced will depend on weather conditions and other factors.”
Vice President Kamala Harris will visit the Vandeberg Space Force today.