SpaceX launches advanced weather satellite for US Space Force (video)

SpaceX launched its second national security mission of the year Thursday (April 11).

A Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from California's Vandenberg Space Force Base at 10:25 a.m. EDT (7:25 a.m. local California time; 1425 GMT), on a mission for the U.S. Space Force called USSF-62.

USSF-62 will send the Weather System Follow-on — Microwave (WSF-M) satellite to low Earth orbit. WSF-M is a next-generation spacecraft that "will provide critical and actionable weather intelligence to military operations in all warfighting domains," according to BAE Systems, which developed and built the satellite.

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 sends USSF-62 to orbit with the Weather System Follow-on — Microwave (WSF-M) satellite on April 11, 2024. (Image credit: SpaceX)

WSF-M's primary instrument is a microwave imager, which will measure sea surface winds, the strength of tropical cyclones and gather other environmental data. Also flying on the satellite is a space weather sensor provided by the U.S. government, according to BAE Systems.

"We’re absolutely thrilled be out here on the Central Coast, with a superb team primed and ready to launch the USSF-62 satellite," Col. Jim Horne, senior materiel leader for Space Systems Command's Launch Execution Delta, said in an emailed statement. "With each national security launch, we add to America’s capabilities and improve its deterrence in the face of growing threats."

The Falcon 9's first stage returned to Earth safely, touching down at Vandenberg's Landing Zone 4 just under eight minutes after liftoff. It was the third launch and landing for this particular booster, according to a SpaceX mission description.

The rocket's payload fairing — the "nose cone" that protects satellites during launch — is also a spaceflight veteran, marking a first for a national security launch, Horne said in his statement.

USSF-62 is SpaceX's 37th launch of 2024 and its second of the year for the Space Force. A Falcon 9 launched the six-satellite USSF-124 mission from Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Feb. 14.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with 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.