The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) was proud to partner with SpaceX on our second launch of 2022. NROL-85 was NRO’s first NROL mission to reuse a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket booster and was launched using the same rocket that launched the NROL-87 mission two months earlier. The NROL-85 mission launched on April 17, 2022 from Vandenberg Space Force Base (VSFB), California, and carried a national security payload designed, built, and operated by NRO.

NROL-85 Mission Emblem

About the Mission Emblem

In the NROL-85 patch, three stars represent guidance, protection, and allegiance. The cat represents loyalty and devotion shared among our nation and partners. The tiger in the cat’s reflection demonstrates that while space can be challenging, a determined attitude helps NRO succeed in going Above and Beyond to meet the most difficult challenges we face in protecting our nation.

Launch Vehicle

Falcon 9

Space X logo 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.


Made of a carbon composite material, the fairing protects satellites on their way to orbit. The fairing is jettisoned approximately three minutes into flight, and SpaceX continues to recover fairings for reuse on future missions.

First Stage

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 fist 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.

Second Stage

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.

Site Info

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

Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E)

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.

Landing Zone 4 (LZ-4)

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 Return-To-Launch-Site 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.

Falcon 9 Illustration
Download the NROL-85 Press Kit

Ready to launch your career?

Join our talented and diverse workforce today.

Explore Job Opportunities
National Reconnaissance Office - Above and Beyond