SpaceX successfully launched a spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office

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But sending a classified NRO satellite into space carries a different set of challenges. SpaceX was not allowed to provide any details about the Falcon 9’s cargo and gave no news about the rocket’s trajectory beyond confirming second stage ignition. In addition, the company was also required to cut off the broadcast of the launch after a few minutes, which is standard practice for NRO missions. The SpaceX team achieved even the mission’s secondary goal of returning the booster to Earth for later re-use. The successful landing was the 10th overall for a Falcon 9 first stage, and the fourth at Landing Zone 1. The NROL-76 launch broke a 10-year monopoly on U.S. national-security missions enjoyed by United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint effort of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

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