A SpaceX Falcon rocket lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May , 2017 to boost a classified spy satellite into orbit for the U.S. military, then turned around and touched down at a nearby landing pad.
It was the 34th mission for SpaceX, but its first flight for the Department of Defense, a customer long-pursued by company founder Elon Musk. The privately owned SpaceX once sued the Air Force over its exclusive launch services contract with United Launch Alliance (ULA), a partnership of Lockheed-Martin and Boeing.) The liftoff of a classified satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) officially broke ULA’s 10-year monopoly on launching U.S. military and national security satellites.
In addition to the NRO’s business, SpaceX has won two Air Force contracts to launch Global Positioning System satellites in 2018 and 2019. For now, the military’s business is a fraction of more than 70 missions, worth more than $10 billion, slated to fly on SpaceX rockets. But with up to 13 more military satellite launches open for competitive bidding in the next few years and ULA’s lucrative sole-source contract due to end in 2019, SpaceX is angling to become a majo launch service provider to the Department of Defense.
A month ago, SpaceX for the first time launched one of its previously flown rockets to send an SES communications satellite into orbit, a key step in Musk’s quest to demonstrate reusability and slash launch costs.
Excertps, SpaceX Launches US Spy Satellite on Secret Mission, Nails Rocket Landing, Space.com, May 1, 2017