The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) is proud to partner with SpaceX on our first National Security Space Launch aboard a Falcon 9 rocket and our first launch of 2022. The NROL-87 mission successfully launched February 2, 2022 from Vandenberg Space Force Base (VSFB), California, and carried a national security payload designed, built, and operated by the agency.
NRO Launch-87 logo is of a wild mountain goat standing proud atop a mountain peak remaining watchfully alert. The NRO maintains constant vigilance from above in protecting our nation and its citizens. The snow-capped mountain in the background represents our nation’s unmatched preeminence in space.
Falcon 9 is a two-stage rocket designed and manufactured by SpaceX for the reliable and safe transport of satellites and the Dragon spacecraft into orbit. This will be the 139th launch of the Falcon 9 rocket and the 20th from VSFB.
Made of a carbon composite material, the fairing protects satellites on their way to orbit. The fairing is jettisoned approximately 3 minutes into flight, and SpaceX continues to recover fairings for reuse on future missions.
Falcon 9’s first stage incorporates nine Merlin engines and aluminum-lithium alloy tanks containing liquid oxygen and rocketgrade kerosene (RP-1) propellant, generating more than 1.7 million pounds of thrust at sea level.
After separation, the first stage will return to Landing Zone 4.
The interstage is a composite structure that connects the first and second stages, and houses the pneumatic pushers that allow the first and second stage to separate during flight. Grid fins: Falcon 9 is equipped with four hypersonic grid fins positioned at the base of the interstage. They orient the rocket during reentry by moving the center of pressure.
Powered by a single Merlin Vacuum Engine, the second stage delivers Falcon 9’s payload to the desired orbit. The engine ignites a few seconds after stage separation, and can be restarted several times to place multiple payloads into different orbits.
VSFB is headquarters to Space Launch Delta 30. SLD 30 manages Department of Defense space and missile testing, and placement of satellites into orbit from the U.S. west coast. On Sept. 27, 2021, VSFB launched their 2,000th rocket into orbit.
SLC-4E was formerly called PALC2-4 and previously used by Atlas and Titan rockets between 1963 and 2005. It was built for use by Atlas-Agena rockets, but was later rebuilt to handle Titan rockets. The designation SLC-4E was applied at the time of the conversion to launch Titans. SLC- 4E is leased as a launch site for the Falcon 9 rocket, which first flew from VSFB on Sept. 29, 2013 following a 24-month refurbishment program, which had started in early 2011.
SpaceX began a five-year lease of Launch Complex 4 West in February 2015. The site is used as a landing pad to bring back Vertical Take Off Vertical Landing (VTVL) Return-To-Launch-Site (RTLS) first-stage boosters of the reusable Falcon 9 launch vehicle. That pad was later named by SpaceX as Landing Zone 4, and first used operationally for a Falcon 9 booster landing in 2018.
February 2, 2022 - NRO celebrates first launch of 2022 and first Falcon 9 National Security Space Launch with NROL-87
Click here for the NROL-87 Press Kit