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In Photos: SpaceX's 1st Secret US Military Satellite Launch (& Landing)

Ready to Launch

SpaceX

On Monday, May 1, the private spaceflight company SpaceX launched a classified spy satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office. See photos of the NROL-76 launch in this slideshow. Read our full launch wrap story here.

A Morning Launch

SpaceX via NRO

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches into the morning sky carrying the classified NROL-76 satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office. Liftoff occurred at 7:15 a.m. EDT (1115 GMT) on May 1, 2017 at Pad 39-A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral., Florida. Read our full launch wrap story here.

Liftoff!

Michael Seeley/USAF

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches the NROL-76 spy satellite on a classified mission for the National Reconnaissance Office on May 1, 2017. The mission launched from Pad-39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Read our full launch wrap story here.

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches

SpaceX

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches the classified NROL-76 spy satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office from Pad 39-A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida on May 1, 2017.

Stage Separation

SpaceX

In this amazing view, a ground camera captures both stages of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket shortly after stage separation. The upper stage, which is carrying NROL-76 into orbit, is seen at top left, while the first stage at right is moving away for its return to Earth. Read our full launch wrap story here.

Back to Earth

SpaceX

SpaceX's ground cameras continued to capture stunning views of the Falcon 9 rocket's first stage re-entry. Here, the first stage is seen in a close-up view from a long range camera (left) and from an onboard camera at the same time. Read our full launch wrap story here.

Up Close and Personal

SpaceX

A zoomed in shot of the Falcon 9's first stage as it fires its Merlin engines.

Re-entry Burn

SpaceX

The Falcon 9 booster fired three of its nine Merlin engines to slow itself for the return to Earth. The event was seen from the rocket and the ground in this side-by-side view. Read our full launch wrap story here.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket booster

SpaceX

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket booster comes in for a pinpoint touchdown at Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida after successfully launching the classified NROL-76 satellite into orbit on May 1, 2017.

SpaceX Falcon 9 booster lands

SpaceX

A view of the SpaceX Falcon 9 booster after its successful landing following the smooth launch of the classified NROL-76 satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office on May 1, 2017.

Touchdown!

SpaceX

Just over 8 minutes after launching NROL-76 into space, the first stage of SpaceX's Falcon 9 booster landed safely at the company's Landing Zone 1 at Air Force's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Read our full launch wrap story here.

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