SpaceX postpones classified US military launch

This was SpaceX's fifth launch of 2017.

The privately-owned firm regularly launches unmanned cargo ships to the International Space Station, and is working on a crew capsule that could carry humans into orbit as early as next year.

SpaceX is set to conduct its first national security mission by sending a spy satellite into space for the National Reconnaissance Office under the USA military. SpaceX did recover another first stage booster, though. This would be the company's fourth land-based return, the most recent of which was three months ago.

Sonic booms rattled the area as the 23-storey rocket blasted off. The launch originally was set for Sunday, but it was scrubbed that day because of what SpaceX described as a sensor issue.

This was SpaceX's first flight for the Department of Defense (DoD)'s National Reconnaissance Office, a customer long-pursued by the company's founder and CEO Elon Musk. This was a landmark event for the company, as it was the first launch of a military satellite in its 15-year history.

The two-stage rocket model is created to transport satellites and cargo into orbit in space. The premise of the lawsuit was that the Air Force had ordered 36 rocket cores from United Launch Alliance without considering SpaceX as a possible bidder for the launches. The company has successfully landed numerous rockets already, but this is the first time it's done so on a mission for the US Department of Defense.

The landing - back on solid ground at SpaceX's Landing Zone 1 in Cape Canaveral, Florida - looked surreal against the backdrop of a clear blue sky just after sunrise. Weather is 70 percent favorable for a launch. Worrying, but not a showstopper. "Tough call, as high altitude wind shear was at 98.6% of the theoretical load limit".

The aerospace company has also landed a pair of launch contracts for the US Air Force to send Global Positioning System satellites into orbit.

ULA is a joint venture by Lockheed Martin and Boeing that was launched in 2006 and has held a monopoly on U.S. national security launches ever since.

  • Carolyn Briggs