US private space firm SpaceX’s prestigious and first spy satellite to be launched on Sunday was postponed to Monday following the detection of an “out of family” sensor.
SpaceX said the launch of the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) will take place on Monday, May 1, 2017, with a Falcon 9 that is rescheduled to lift off from the Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39A during a two-hour window opening at 07:15 Eastern time (11:15 UTC).
SpaceX last month successfully demonstrated the Falcon 9’s reusability after the launch of SES-10 aboard a rocket fitted with a “flight-proven” first stage feature.
Even now SpaceX is planning to reuse the first stage for possible future use after deploying the National Reconnaissance Office’s tentatively coded NROL-76 payload.
The satellite is neither a sun-synchronous nor geo-synchronous in its orbit but inclined at around 50 degrees, allowing possible dogleg maneuver during its second stage flight to increase the inclination.
Most of the NRO satellites in orbits are inclined at around 63 degrees, so as to be accessible from Cape Canaveral, the Kennedy Space Center or Vandenberg. They are manageable for the Trumpet signals intelligence (SIGINT) and Quasar communications in highly-elliptical Molniya orbits and Intruder naval SIGINT spacecraft in low Earth orbit.
These spy satellites are also designed for links with stealthy imaging satellites under the Misty program of the US strategic space program.