- Parabolic Arc
- June 2, 2023
NRO Celebrates First Launch of 2022 and First SpaceX Falcon 9 National Security Launch with NROL-87
CHANTILLY, Va., February 2, 2022 (NRO PR) — The National Reconnaissance Office successfully launched the NROL-87 mission aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex-4E located at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 12:27 p.m. PST. NROL-87 is the 60th launch since NRO began publicly disclosing launches in December 1996.
The Falcon 9 delivered a national security payload to orbit before the reusable rocket booster safely landed at Landing Zone 4. NROL-87 is designed, built, and operated by the NRO to support its overhead reconnaissance mission. NROL-87 is the NRO’s first launch this year and follows eight launches and 16 payloads placed on orbit in the past 24 months.
“The success of NROL-87 was the result of multiple partnerships and the innovation of our people,” said NRO Director Dr. Chris Scolese. “Technology is ever changing. The relationships we build enable us to recognize solutions faster to ensure we field the latest capabilities. Our people continue to prove they are our greatest asset, solving the most complex problems in new and innovative ways.”
NROL-87 is the NRO’s third launch from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket but the first Falcon 9 procured from the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) contract. NSSL, a government launch acquisition program aimed at ensuring continued access to space for national security missions, is overseen and operated through U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command headquartered at Los Angeles Air Force Base in California. Along with SSC, additional mission partners supporting today’s launch include the USSF’s Space Launch Delta 30.
“This launch demonstrates our ability to build the best-in-class systems to protect the United States and our allies from threats in and from space,” said Col. Chad Davis, director, NRO’s Office of Space Launch. “Our partners at SpaceX and U.S. Space Force were vital to the success of this mission today, and their outstanding capabilities make these highly technical missions look routine.”
Since 1961, the NRO has pushed the envelope of U.S. space-based intelligence collection with boldness and ingenuity. Today, NRO’s innovative legacy continues to thrive as it develops, acquires, launches, and operates the world’s most capable spy satellites. NROL-87 will strengthen NRO’s ability to provide a wide-range of timely intelligence information to national decision-makers, warfighters, and intelligence analysts to protect the Nation’s vital interests and support humanitarian efforts worldwide.
Additional information on upcoming launches will be made available at https://www.nro.gov/launch/.
For sixty years, the NRO has developed, acquired, launched, and operated the satellites that are the foundation for America’s advantage and strength in space. Using a diversified architecture of spacecraft, NRO collects and delivers the best space-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance content on the planet. Learn more at NRO.gov.
28 responses to “NRO Celebrates First Launch of 2022 and First SpaceX Falcon 9 National Security Launch with NROL-87”
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.
105 successful landings of Falcon rocket, so far. Just 27 more to go to equal the number of landings of the Space Shuttle program.
Falcon should reach that mark sometime this year. Perhaps before the end of Summer?
If so, Falcon will have taken only about 7 years to achieve that goal. The Space Shuttle needed 30 years!
$L$ delenda est
yeap and sadly there seems to be little economic impact of it.
Still thinking cost plus…
There is No reason for SpaceX to pass the savings from reusability on unless a competitor appears. It would be leaving money on the table it needs for Starship.
if they are real. however that reason itself is not a reason to assume that an explanation without any real proof is valid
what is worrisome is that there is evidence its not true. SpaceX should if they have teh capability be priming the pump for the Starship market. so they need “more” payloads from varied users to be in development for starship. this includes the DoD and intel agencies.
I dont think that the cost are real. as I told someone else. it is probably correct that the cost to refurb/reuse is less than the cost to build an F9 first stage and keep the line open, which building an expendable second stage with similarity does. (a cost that they have to bear anyway) but added to basic refurbishment is of course recovery and transportation cost. I’ll bet money that from the moment of recovery on a barge to stacking back on the pad transportation cost alone run 5=10 million in both fixed and actual cost. who knows what they have to spend to re(whatever) the actual stage both in fixed and actual cost
add to that tracking cost for customers on reuse etc. I suspect its near a wash.
so why would they do it? bragging rights and learning to build a better product. but lets see cost plus has nothing to do with this
At the price range that the Falcon 9 operates in the launch market appears to be inelastic, which means the revenue they would lose by lowering the price of a launch is greater than they would make from a greater volume of launches. So there is no need to reduce the prices beyond want they need to dominate the market. Basic economics 101.
Your numbers are nothing but rough guesses made by someone with no direct access to the actual cost figures.
At the price range that the Falcon 9 operates in the launch market appears to be inelastic,” I AGREE that means that musk has not significantly lowered cost
and all this when the market is saturated. ULA could not launch another satellite if you came with twice the launch cost
“ur numbers are nothing but rough guesses made by someone with no direct access to the actual cost figures.” Exactly which makes all the talk among the Musk fans entertaining. the problem is that I can actually estimate cost pretty good 🙂 its being an expert 🙂
You keep confusing cost and price. Elon Musk has not significantly lowered the price satellite owners pay, but we have no idea how much he has lowered costs for the actual launch. What Elon Musk is doing is a classic technology price strategy of sliding down the Demand Curve at a rate that maximizes profit. And he is leveraging his cost advantage to create a consumer product, Starlink, that will him a competitive advantage over other similar satellite services.
SpaceX has not significantly lowered launch price?? How does this square with taking market share from ULA, Russia, and ESA? Taking market share from existing providers requires that one offers something they don’t.
Strongly suspect that cost is well below price, and price is below competition. Unless it is being postulated that this is some form of scam backed by a lot of hardware.
Depends on how you are defining significantly. SpaceX lowered the cost just enough to gain dominance in the existing global launch market, taking shares from the other firms, which did returns jobs to the United States. But it has not moved the launch price to where the Demand Curve has gone from Inelastic to Elastic.
About what I Would do in my business then if I was able to cut cost by 30-90%. Cut prices enough to keep my people busy, and raise wages/benefits enough to attract as many more as I could use. Then invest.
About what I would like to do in the first sentence. No guarantee of my ability to execute.
Yes, and you would also watch how fast you are expanding. You would want to move down the Demand Curve at a point where the quality won’t slip as you take on new business.
but we have no idea how much he has lowered costs for the actual launch”
but yet all you people are quite sure he has. why? because you want to believe and he says it endlessly with no metrics of proof both from him or of the condition in general
so all the fan boys make up endless numbers explaining how much when they have no idea and come up with goofy economic theories to explain why actually the cost are not going down.
with no real numbers there is no proof of anything 🙂
Exactly. Neither of us have access to the books, so your guesses, based on the Old Space way of doing things are as good as mine which are based on the lean manufacturing practices Elon Musk has brought to the space industry.
And that would be the lesson Boeing should learn from SpaceX, along with moving away from its dependence on subcontractors for its manufacturing, in aircraft as well as space.
It’s an interesting point because SpaceX has lowered the cost of producing a booster, which in itself narrows the cost difference between a new booster and a reused one. But I think we can assume that there is at least some savings by reusing boosters otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it on every launch. How significant the savings are we can only speculate. Over time they will likely find ways to reduce the refurbishment costs, which will increase the savings. But then again they may also find ways to further reduce the cost to manufacture a new booster.
The Starship project seems to have an even more extreme emphasis on lowering production costs. But they are also putting a lot of effort into reusability. However only when Starship is flying will they find out what the actual reuse savings are. But I can imagine that just the recovery of the 38 Raptor engines (counting both stages) after each flight in itself is bound to be a major cost savings.
what SpaceX is absolutely getting is the expertise in reusability of launch vehicles that really is unique on the planet. I assume that RL and BO will get it eventually BUT spaceX has a massive jump in that expertise, skill base, and knowledge to every other group on the planet 🙂
thats priceless and will allow them, since they are committed to the concept to eventually (given enough time and devleopment money) to develop that into an operationally functional vehicle more like an airliner than a rocket.
and if they do this the economics of it all will in my view catch up to them.
I suspect that STarship will be one of the most expensive boosters/vehicle combinations on the planet…but if they at some point with some design get to some massive frequent reusability it wont matter. the cost of production will slowly merge into the bottom of the cost.
There is every indication that Starship is going to be much lower cost than can almost be imagined for a rocket of its size. That’s based on watching just how fast they can build them. During the five month flight test period from December 2020-April 2021 they were cranking out Starships at a rapid pace, and all five of them flew successfully. Four out of five flights had an engine problem in the last few seconds which prevented a successful landing, but the spaceship structure and flight controls performed as expected. And those were also the previous generation Raptor engines, although the fifth flight (the one that landed successfully) per Elon Musk’s comments prior to that flight it was using Raptors that already had some of the modifications that will be on Raptor 2.
Of course it’s not known how it will fare during orbital reentry, there’s a good chance that some tweaks to the design and/or heat shield will be needed, but probably not any changes that would significantly impact ultimate production time once they get the design finalized.
And the large booster hasn’t flow yet, however its design and flight profile is much closer to Falcon 9 so there’s a good chance it can handle its suborbital flight. Although yes both of them have to do a precision landing with just a few feet of margin in order to land on the catch arms. But the Raptor engines have been designed for that level of control, the big difference is that it can hover, unlike the Falcon 9 booster which has to land very fast at nearly full throttle all the way to touchdown, making adjustment difficult. Yet even Falcon 9 usually lands within a few feet of the center mark.
No guarantees on any of this, but certainly the potential for success seems to be there.
There is every indication that Starship is going to be much lower cost than can almost be imagined for a rocket of its size.”
I dont agree with that. there is next to no data to support that. the prototypes (which were barely and minimally successful) had little in common with actual flying and operational vehicles. they were utterly low resolution test vehicles flying in a very low stress environment
there is really nothing to build any trend indication on. the vehicle has NO flight history. and it is as experimental a rocket as the V2 was when it first flew.
there is potential for success but I have a feeling getting that potential maximized is going to be a long time money consuming affair.
No data that we have access to, that’s correct. But I wouldn’t minimize the flight tests too much, especially since nearly all aspects of the flights were successful in each test, including a sideways controlled freefall from over 30,000 feet. True those flights didn’t make it to max q, or what it will experience when it transitions into the atmosphere coming in from orbit. Expectations are that the initial first orbital tests have a much lower chance of success, at least as far as recovery.
But that’s why I put so much emphasis on their ability to build quickly, and I should mention also make design changes quickly which has been observed many times during the process so far. That’s why I have more optimism that it probably won’t take them more than a few attempts to successfully reach orbit, even if they don’t solve reentry and landing right away. I think after successfully reaching orbit once or twice they may feel confident enough to start risking some Starlink satellites, which gives them a unique ability to conduct test flights and be productive at the same time. In fact once they demonstrate being able to reliably and consistently make it to orbit, they might even start to get some commercial customers signed on fairly quickly, as similar to Falcon 9, customers don’t really care whether or not the rocket is successfully recovered.
I think their track record and experience is what gives me optimism that Starship will at least be a successful orbital launch vehicle fairly quickly. To your point though, if they keep burning up Starships in the atmosphere trying to recover them, or crash them on landing, then yes this adds to the costs. But if that’s their only problem I think it’s likely they can sustain for a while at least, since they can quickly build replacements as needed. Just as Falcon 9 could fly profitably (as far as we know) without booster and fairing recovery, Starship may very well be able to turn at least some profit even without recovery, or at least be subjected to losses that can be sustained for a period of time while they work out recovery.
If they can’t solve recovery, and being profitable winds up depending on it, well then it won’t work out nearly as good as they are hoping.
o data that we have access to, that’s correct.” you cannot have data secret or open outside the flight realm. the flights never really replicated anything of the flight envelope except the “flip” or whatever they are calling it, and the ability to fly stable in the belly down. ok thats something but its about the thinnest part of the flight envelope
we can just have our own views on the rapid prototyping. I dont see a lot of value in it. or put it another way I think that they are building well in excess of their ability to test and get data which would allow them to modify the design
you build test fly, learn then build again. there is no point in building two radically different prototypes before you have flown the first one
but thats just my opinion. its not my money
as for the development. I agree with this. I think that at some point they are going to take what they have and try and get a vehicle that can have some operational capabilities. a first blush at that is a reusable first stage with an expendable second stage. that they try and evolve as they test it in reentries after the prime deployment
THIS assumes that there are no massive issues with the first stage or the foundation of construction…they will know that at some point soon RGO
I agree it’s certainly a more likely scenario that they will be successful recovering the first stage, but less successful recovering the second. If so that would make for a scenario somewhat similar to Falcon 9. However unlike Falcon 9, the cost of the Starship second stage will be a bit closer to the cost of the first stage. Less sheet metal and welding, but it will have a cargo door, flight control surfaces, header tanks (because of the flip maneuver just before landing), TPS, and six big Raptor engines, unlike Falcon 9 second stage which only has one moderate sized Merlin engine. But at least not the 32 Raptors that the first stage has though. So it won’t be quite as easy to accept losing a Starship second stage as a Falcon 9 second stage is. But still they seem to be able to build them fast, and if that translates to relatively low costs even for the second stage, then they might be able to sustain not recovering all of them.
Another big worry is damage to the launch tower, probably less so on liftoff, but during the catch maneuver. I know that the Falcon 9 booster aims away from the barge until it gets closer, and will just drop into the water if things are not going right. Assuming they do the same with Starship they might be able to save the tower in many cases as long as control problems don’t pop up until the last second.
Actually there is speculation that is based on job advertisements that SpaceX may just have the Super Booster be redesigned to land in the ocean and be towed to the launch site to fly again. It would eliminate the rapid turnaround plan but might offer lower costs overall. Remember, that is what happened with recovery of the farings, they found a short dip in the ocean was cheaper than trying to grab them out of the air.
Seems less likely that the Raptors will be okay with going for a swim. I would think before they did that they would install landing legs on the booster, although they are trying hard to avoid that because of the weight.
But either way they will get to try this out since at least the first flight test is planned to end with a soft landing in the water. I wonder if maybe the job posting was related to that?
A little late since it will fly as soon as the FAA gives its approval. More likely it’s part of the plan to move launches out to sea. A lot easier to land a Super Booster in the water near the platform and then quickly tow it to the platform to be lifted out and repositioned. Landing legs not only add weight, it takes a day or so to retract them on a Falcon 9.
As I can determined each booster stage is roughly equivalent to three second stages in time and resources to manufactured. Since SpaceX still need to produced second stages for every launch. So for every booster that is reflown, is three more launches than with new boosters. Plus the turn around time to refurbished a booster is likely to be shorter than qualifying a newly build booster.
Finally IIRC the Hawthorne assembly line was supposedly capable of about 30 cores and 30 upper stages annually. Which Space never come close to with the cores, instead they relied on reused booster cores.
Currently Space have an inventory of about 12 single core boosters and 2 tri-core heavy booster sets plus 3 extra center cores to come. Should be sufficient for the planned 53 launches for 2022.
The launch today used the core booster from a former FH flight, showing their ability to mix and match as needed. ?
Make that 106 with the latest flight. And the 111 consecutive flight that was successful. Breaking records now with every flight.
Another day, another successful launch by SpaceX. ?
Meanwhile in Old Space Land, the SLS launch date has slipped again and no one knows when Starliner might fly again.