Update: Although preflight static fire is not planned, it remains on the SpaceX track for the final launch and landing of 2020 as early as 9:30 a.m. EST (14:00 UTC) on Thursday, December 17th.
After a regular pre-flight wet dress rehearsal (WDR) booster Static fire Prior to each launch from September 2016, SpaceX began gradually eliminating the need for proven rockets to fly in 2020. Instead, static fire can be more helpful as a data-based diagnostic tool if testing reveals problems before or after a flight. For flight-proven boosters with a clean bill of health, SpaceX seems confident in avoiding procedures on a few internal StarLink launches and bizarre customer missions.
Now, despite NRL-108 NRO’s direct launch deal with SpaceX and the launch of the first flight of any kind of proven Falcon 9 rocket, let alone the four-flight booster assigned to support it, the spy agency has as much confidence in Space. The Falcon 9B1059, with a new upper stage and payload fairing, and unspecified NRL-108 payload (December 16) went vertically into the launch complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) – too late for any WDR or static fire testing of December 17th.
This mission will be the 26th and final launch of SpaceX in 2020 – This year’s final orbital US launch. As usual, the SpaceX launch will be broadcast live, with coverage starting 15 minutes before the lift (8:45 EST / UTC-5).
The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) says efforts are underway for the final Falcon 9 launch and landing of SpaceX after a two-month delay.
The NRL-108 launch plans of the Secret Intelligence Agency, which was scheduled to launch in early October, were silently revealed in the regular communications permit requests submitted to the SpaceX FCC. Unfortunately, those plans came at a time when a Falcon 9 booster engine problem caused a SpaceX launch to stop at the last second and subject the company to a quick and extensive anomaly investigation. The Falcon 9 booster, which was commissioned to support NROL-108 (B1059), was practically the brothers with three new boosters.
In the B1059 the SpaceX may have had to swap nine Merlin 1D engines, however the B1059 successfully completed four launches and landings at that time. Ultimately, although nothing is known, payload-side problems on the NRL-108 satellite (s) caused the next eight weeks of delay. Now, SpaceX, which has been confirmed by NRO on December 14, will launch its second mission for Spy Agency (NET) on Thursday, December 17, from 9 to 12 EST (14: 00-17: 00 UTC).
For SpaceX, this is the third time in a month that a customer has effectively jumped several Falcon 9 booster reusable milestones and is extremely confident in the company’s expertise with flight proven rockets. On December 6, the Falcon 9 boosts Booster B1058 for the fourth time in support of SpaceX’s CRS-21 space station redistribution mission, marking the space agency’s first launch twice. Or The booster that flew three times.
On December 13, another Falcon 9 booster carrying a large communications satellite for the Sirius XM was launched for the seventh time, becoming the first private customer to launch a five-flight or six-flight SpaceX rocket.
Four days after the SXM-7, SpaceX will now launch the mysterious NRL-108 mission. This is the first time the NRO has launched a payload on a proven commercial rocket of any kind, as well as the first launch on a two-flight, three-flight or four-flight booster – the largest ever jump by a SpaceX customer. NRO’s first and only SpaceX launch – technically contracted by spacecraft provider Bell Aerospace, not NRO – was completed in May 2017.
Despite its insignificance, the NRL-108 is also SpaceX ”s first launch of the four-flight Falcon 9 booster.
After launch, the Falcon 9B 1059 returns to the Florida coast for landing in one of the two East Coast landing zones of the SpaceX. Deployed a minute or so after the booster separation, the Falcon 9’s two payload fairing halves are expected to descend approximately 330 km (5,205 miles), where SpaceX recovery ships will attempt to retrieve the Geo search and Geo MS tree.