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SpaceX to launch reconnaissance mission from Vandenberg base next week

SpaceX to launch reconnaissance mission from Vandenberg base next week
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on November 23. File Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA | License Photo

April 8 (UPI) -- A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket has been scheduled to launch next week from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California for the National Reconnaissance Office, a U.S. intelligence agency that builds and operates spy satellites, Space Force announced Friday.

The rocket is expected to lift off between 5:59 a.m. and 7:25 a.m. on April 15 from Space Launch Complex-4 East.

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NROL-85 will be the first NRO mission to reuse a SpaceX rocket booster. The NRO first used a reusable Falcon 9 rocket in its NROL-87 launch from Vandenberg in February.

During next week's launch, the Falcon 9 rocket is expected to return to Landing Zone 4 at Vandenberg.

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"Upon re-entry of the vehicle, spectators and local residents from Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties can anticipate hearing multiple sonic booms as the vehicle breaks the sound barrier," a release from the base said.

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.

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

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In another first for SpaceX, the aerospace company made history Friday by sending the first private crew of astronauts to the International Space Station to carry out various science experiments. The Axiom-1 mission lifted off at 11:17 a.m. from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Meanwhile, SpaceX's planned Crew-4 launch for NASA has been delayed by at least one day to April 21.

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