A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off with two radar reconnaissance satellites for the German military on Sunday morning (Dec. 24).
The Falcon 9 rocket launched the SARah-2 mission to low Earth orbit (LEO) from California's Vandenberg Space Force Base at 8:11 a.m. EST (1311 GMT; 5:11 a.m. local California time). The flight had originally been slated for Saturday (Dec. 23) but was pushed back a day to allow for additional preflight checks.
The SARah-2 mission sent two synthetic aperture radar (the "SAR" in "SARah-2") reconnaissance satellites aloft for the German military.
"The satellites will continue the replacement process of the aging SAR-Lupe constellation," EverydayAstronaut.com wrote in a mission description.
"SARah 2 and SARah 3 are two 'reflector antenna' satellites, meaning they will consequently fly in formation with SARah 1 to increase the resolution of the constellation," the outlet added.
SARah-2 was the eighth liftoff for this particular Falcon 9's first stage, according to SpaceX. The booster came back for its eighth landing as well, touching down at Vandenberg about eight minutes after launch.
SARah 2 and SARah 3, meanwhile, were set to deploy into LEO from the Falcon 9's upper stage about 20 minutes and 25 minutes after liftoff, respectively.
Sunday's launch continued a very busy 2023 for SpaceX. The company has launched 94 orbital missions so far this year, as well as two test flights of its giant Starship rocket that didn't make it to orbit.
And there will be more SpaceX action before the calendar turns. For example, the company's powerful Falcon Heavy rocket is scheduled to launch the U.S. Space Force's X-37B space plane to orbit on Dec. 28.
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Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.