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

Launch Telemetry

SpaceX

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launched the NROL-76 satellite from Pad-39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Monday, May 1, at 7:15 a.m. EDT (1115 GMT). The launch was smooth with cameras capturing amazing views of the ultimate rocket landing. Read our full launch wrap story here.

SpaceX static fire test

SpaceX/Twitter

SpaceX completed a static fire test of its Falcon 9 rocket April 25 in advance of NROL-76's launch April 30 — the company's first classified U.S. mission. The launch was delayed one day to May 1. Read our full launch wrap story here.

NROL-76 Spy Satellite Moved to Launch Pad

U.S. National Reconnaissance Office

The U.S. National Reconnaissance Office's classified NROL-76 spy satellite, shrouded in its protective payload fairing, is moved to the launch pad to be connected to its SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket ahead of a May 1 launch from Pad 39-A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

NROL-76 mission patch

SpaceX

SpaceX's official NROL-76 mission patch. Read our full launch wrap story here.

NRO mission patch

NRO/Twitter

The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) tweeted this mission patch for its NROL-76 satellite, showing Lewis and Clark setting out to explore the Louisiana Territory. Read our full launch wrap story here.

SpaceX Falcon 9 with NROL-76 for May 1 Launch

SpaceX

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the classified NROL-76 satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office stands atop the historic Launch Pad 39-A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida ahead of a May 1, 2017 launch. Read our full launch wrap story here.

SpaceX Falcon 9 with NROL-76 at Pad

SpaceX

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the classified NROL-76 spy satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office stands atop Launch Pad 39-A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center ahead of a planned May 1, 2017 liftoff. Read our full launch wrap story here.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Before Dawn

SpaceX

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket carrying NROL-76 stands tall in the predawn darkness in this stunning view taken at Pad 39-A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida ahead of a May 1 launch. Read our full launch wrap story here.

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Tariq Malik
Editor-in-Chief

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award (opens in new tab) for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at Space.com and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast (opens in new tab) with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network (opens in new tab). To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik (opens in new tab).