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article imageAnother first — SpaceX launches spy satellite, lands booster

By Karen Graham     May 1, 2017 in Science
Cape Canaveral - SpaceX added another first to its growing list of accomplishments, breaking up the U.S. spy satellite launch monopoly with its own launch of a spy satellite for a government agency this morning, and it successfully landed the Falcon 9 booster.
The private launch company sent up a spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), designated NROL-76, at 7:15 a.m. ET Monday from Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 39, About nine minutes later, the Falcon 9 booster successfully touched down on a landing pad on Florida's Space Coast.
The launch was another historic first for SpaceX, marking the first time it has executed a government contract, reports the Orlando Sentinel, breaking a monopoly held for the past 10-years by United Launch Alliance (ULA).
In addition to the classified NRO launch today, SpaceX has won two Air Force contracts to launch global positioning system satellites in 2018 and 2019. The $82.7 million contract was awarded by the Pentagon on April 27, with SpaceX being the only bidder because ULA sat out the bidding process, saying they couldn't compete with SpaceX.
Launch had a 24-hour delay
The launch had originally been scheduled 7:00 a.m. ET on Sunday, but one of the hundreds of sensors on the rocket was acting up, prompting a halt to the launch, according to USA Today.
“While this particular sensor did have a redundancy, readings were out of tolerance so out of an abundance of caution, we opted to hold launch, said John Federspiel, a lead mechanical design engineer at SpaceX who served as a broadcaster for the launch.
And while there is now a healthy competition between ULA and SpaceX, launching a package for the government doesn't come cheap for the launch company. Because the launch took place on a civilian government range, the FAA was involved. This means SpaceX had to get an FAA Launch License.
Under the terms of the launch license, SpaceX had to purchase $160 million worth of insurance to cover any claims resulting from the flight of the Falcon 9 from Kennedy Space Center and $12 million to cover potential damages during preflight activities.
SpaceX was also required to buy $100 million worth of insurance to cover any damages to government property in the event of a launch accident and one more $63 million insurance policy that covered government property claims resulting from the prelaunch activities.
More about Spacex, Spy satellite, Falcon 9, national reconnaissance office, 24hour delay
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