SpaceX will launch a classified spy satellite on a new Falcon 9 rocket today and you can watch it live

Update for 6 pm ET: SpaceX successfully launched its first NRO spy satellite of the year, NROL-87, from Vandenberg Space Force Base today at 3:27 p.m. EST (2027 GMT). Read our full story and see stunning video here.


Update for 3 pm EST on Feb. 2: Liftoff is now scheduled for 3:27 p.m. EST (2027 GMT).

A new SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch a classified spy satellite for the United States today (Feb. 2) and you'll be able to watch it all live online. 

The Falcon 9 rocket will launch the secret NROL-87 payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office from Space Launch Complex 4E at California's Vandenberg Space Force Base. Liftoff is set for 3:18 p.m. EST (12:18 PST, 2018 GMT).

"#NROL87 has a lot of 'firsts' for NRO," NRO officials wrote in a Twitter update (opens in new tab) Tuesday (Feb. 1). "It's our 1st launch of 2022, 1st rocket core to be reused in a future launch, & 1st Falcon 9 under the [National Security Space Launch] contract." (SpaceX received a $316 million contract in 2020 for launches between 2022 and 2024 for the U.S. Space Force, including NRO flights.)

You can watch the launch on this page, courtesy of SpaceX, or directly from the company's website (opens in new tab). The webcast should begin about 15 minutes before liftoff.

Related: The evolution of SpaceX's rockets in pictures 

A new SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the classified NROL-87 satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office stands atop Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California ahead of a planned Feb. 2, 2022 launch.  (Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX's NROL-87 mission is the first of what could have been a doubleheader of rocket launches today for the Hawthorne, California-based company. A second Falcon 9 booster is currently awaiting its own launch from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, to carry 49 new Starlink internet satellites to orbit. 

That mission was previously tentatively set to launch within hours of today's NROL-87 mission, but SpaceX has since delayed it to no earlier than Thursday (Feb. 3) at 12:51 p.m. EST (1751 GMT). Both flights come on the heels of a spectacular sunset launch of an Italian Earth-observing satellite by SpaceX from Florida on Monday (Jan. 31).   

Not much is known about NROL-87. It is a classified payload, as are most of the satellites operated by the NRO. NRO officials typically ask its launch providers to limit their live broadcasts of launches to only the few short minutes of liftoff.

SpaceX is, however, planning to recover the rocket's first stage with a land-based touchdown at the company's Landing Zone 4 at Vandenberg. The booster will then be prepared for another flight in the future. The NROL-87 mission is SpaceX's fifth launch of 2022.

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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).