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SpaceX launches spy satellite from California

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches a satellite from California on Wednesday for the National Reconnaissance Office. Photo courtesy of SpaceX
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches a satellite from California on Wednesday for the National Reconnaissance Office. Photo courtesy of SpaceX

ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 2 (UPI) -- SpaceX launched a classified payload into orbit Wednesday from California for the National Reconnaissance Office, a U.S. intelligence agency that builds and operates spy satellites.

Liftoff occurred as planned at 12:27 p.m. PST from Complex 4E at Vandenberg Space Force Base about 160 miles west of Los Angeles.

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The NROL-87 mission was the first such launch for the office on a Falcon 9 rocket. The first-stage booster successfully flew back to Vandenberg after the launch.

The NRO says little about its spacecraft, except that it supports the agency's security mission to provide intelligence data to the nation's senior policy makers, the intelligence community and the Department of Defense.

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Agencies that compile NRO data include the National Security Agency and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. Civil agencies, such as FEMA, also use NRO intelligence for research and development and for emergency and disaster relief efforts in the United States and around the world.

SpaceX previously also planned a Starlink launch from Florida on Wednesday, but new notices about that launch were posted Wednesday morning indicating the company pushed it back one day to Thursday.

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The Starlink launch, which has been delayed by nearly a week, includes another cluster of SpaceX's own broadband communications satellites. About 2,000 have already been launched.

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The Starlink network is designed to provide high-speed Internet access to customers in remote areas, but also is available in many major cities.

SpaceX eventually wants to deploy thousands more satellites, which has raised concerns about space debris and interruptions to astronomy observations. The satellites can cause streaks of light across images of planets, stars and other space objects.

Astronomers also have lauded SpaceX, however, for working to reduce the glare from the satellites with dark coatings and sun shields.

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NASA, SpaceX launch Crew-3 mission to ISS

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches NASA's third crew to the International Space Station at 9:03 p.m. November 10 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo

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