SpaceX launches classified USSF-124 satellites on secret Valentine's Day mission for US Space Force (video)

SpaceX launched a mysterious national security mission today (Feb. 14) in a flawless late afternoon launch.

A Falcon 9 rocket launched the classified USSF-124 mission for the U.S. Space Force today from Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station right on time at 5:30 p.m. EST (2230 GMT).

The Falcon 9's first stage came back to Earth for a vertical touchdown at sunny Cape Canaveral about eight minutes after liftoff. SpaceX's launch webcast shortly thereafter at the request of the Space Force. The landing marked SpaceX's 272nd landing of an orbital-class rocket.

Related: SpaceX: Facts about Elon Musk's private spaceflight company

A SpaceX Falcon 9 launches the USSF-124 mission for the U.S. Space Force on Feb. 14, 2024 at 5:30 p.m. EST (2230 GMT). (Image credit: SpaceX via X)

Today's mission was the seventh launch and landing for this particular booster, according to a SpaceX mission description.

We don't know much about USSF-124. The Space Force remained mum about it until this morning, when it emailed out a statement saying that the mission is ready to fly.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 booster lands at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Feb. 14, 2024 after launching the USSF-124 mission on behalf of the U.S. Space Force. (Image credit: SpaceX via X)

That statement revealed that USSF-124 will send six satellites to orbit — two for the Missile Defense Agency and four for the Space Development Agency — but did not describe the spacecraft or their envisioned orbital duties.

"With each national security launch, we continue to strengthen America’s capabilities and its deterrence in the face of growing threats while adding stability to a very dynamic world," Col. Jim Horne, senior materiel leader for Space System Command's Launch Execution Delta, said in the emailed statement. "It's what we do in the Space Force, and we take that charge seriously."

USSF-124 could be part of a very busy stretch in spaceflight. At 7:30 p.m. EST tonight (0030 GMT on Feb. 15), for example, SpaceX plans to launch 22 of its Starlink internet satellites to orbit from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

Then, at 10:25 p.m. EST tonight (0325 GMT on Feb. 15), Russia will send the robotic Progress 87 freighter toward the International Space Station from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan atop a Soyuz rocket. 

And SpaceX plans to launch IM-1, a private moon-landing mission, on Feb. 15 at 1:05 a.m. EST (0605 GMT) from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, which is next door to Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 11:10 a.m. ET on Feb. 14 with information about USSF-124 from a statement emailed out by the Space Force.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

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.