CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida — The launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a National Reconnaissance Office spy satellite (NROL-76) is scheduled to liftoff between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Sunday, April 30, 2017, from from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
As seen in the above photo, a static fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket was completed on Tuesday without incident. Following the static fire explosion last year
which resulted in the destruction of the AMOS-6 satellite, all SpaceX static fire tests are now performed without the payload attached to the Falcon 9.
Spy Satellite Payload
As is customary with spy satellite launches, few details have been released about the mission other than that it is in support of national defense. NROL-76 is a historic first for SpaceX because it is the first Department of Defense mission for the relatively new aerospace company.
Launch Weather 80% ‘GO’
According to the latest weather forecast from the United States Air Force 45th Weather Squadron, there is an 80% percent chance overall of acceptable weather conditions for Sunday’s launch. The primary weather concerns for launch are liftoff winds and cumulus clouds.
Attempted Ground Landing, Sonic Boom
After first stage separation, SpaceX will attempt to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket on land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Landing Zone 1. Landing Zone 1 is built on the former site of Space Launch Complex 13, a Cold War-Era U.S. Air Force rocket and missile testing range last used in 1978.
Residents of the communities of Cape Canaveral, Cocoa, Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island, Mims, Port Canaveral, Port St. John, Rockledge, Scottsmoor, Sharpes, and Titusville, Florida, are most likely to hear a sonic boom, although what Brevard County residents experience will depend on weather conditions and other factors.
Photo credit: SpaceX