SpaceX Falcon 9: NROL-85 Launch and Landing at Vandenberg SFB

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SpaceX successfully completed it’s NROL-85 launch. Not much is known about the payload, as it is a top-secret payload of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The booster 1071 was re-used from a previous launch, also for the NRO. Booster B1071 successfully launched NROL-87 earlier this year, also from Vandenberg Space Force Base.

Originally, the launch was scheduled for early Friday morning at around 6 a.m. It then got pushed to Saturday and from there to Sunday. This allowed the SpaceX team for additional pre-launch checks and data reviews as well as for better weather conditions. Saturday’s forecast was not in favor of a launch and especially not for photographers trying to capture the launch.

By pushing it to Sunday, we got a nice easter present from SpaceX by successfully launching a Falcon 9 rocket and deploying its payload. 

This was the first NRO launch with a reused booster core and the second Falcon 9 launch through the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) contract. Furthermore, the second NRO launch in 2022 and 4th overall launch of a Falcon 9 with NRO. 

I never spend that many consecutive nights waiting for a rocket launch. Luckily the weekend approached which let me stay the extra days to make sure I can capture this launch. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate. We had low clouds and just a few minutes before launch, the rocket got covered in them as well and making it impossible to get any good shots from the launch.

Launch Details NROL-85

• Rocket: SpaceX Falcon 9
• Booster: B1071
• Mission: NROL-85
• Launch Date: Sunday, April 17, 2022
• Launch Time (Forecast): 6:13 a.m. PDT; 
• Launch Time (Actual): 6:13 a.m. PDT
• Launch Location: Space Launch Complex-4E at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California
• Landing Site: LZ-4 at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California

Mission Details & Payload NROL-85

We don’t know what’s under the fairing during this launch. It’s something the National Reconnaissance Office wants in space. Only they can tell you. Either way, it’s always fun to watch a rocket launch.


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