SpaceX launches last rocket of 2020 from Kennedy Space Center

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – SpaceX’s last launch of 2020 went off without a hitch Saturday morning from Florida’s Space Coast.

A Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Kennedy Space Center at 9 a.m., sending a secret spy satellite owned by the National Reconnaissance Office into orbit.

A few minutes after launching the NROL-108 mission, SpaceX successfully landed Falcon 9′s 162-foot first stage booster at Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

Saturday’s successful launch comes after multiple delays earlier in the week, WKMG-TV reported. The Falcon 9 rocket was originally scheduled to liftoff at 9:45 a.m. Thursday but the launch was placed on hold about a minute beforehand. The launch window ran until 12 p.m. but the company decided to delay the liftoff at least 24 hours to allow more time to resolve the issue.

SpaceX then said it would try again Friday to launch the National Reconnaissance Office satellite but later pushed the new launch time to Saturday morning to allow more time for checkouts.

Triple sonic booms

After liftoff, Falcon 9′s 162-foot first-stage booster will separate from the second stage, then start its descent back toward Florida. Its target: Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, which is about 9 miles south of pad 39A.

As it descends toward the tip of the Cape, Space Coast residents and spectators should be prepared for the triple sonic booms generated by the booster, which are harmless save for a few frights and triggered car alarms.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket was selected by the NRO for this mission, known as NROL-108. Though the intelligence agency rarely provides details about its payloads, mission artwork released Tuesday shows an angry, fanged gorilla beating its chest next to text that reads, “Peace Through Strength.”

Saturday’s launch will mark the 31st of the year for the Space Coast. According to Florida Today, SpaceX plans three January launches, ranging from Starlink to a Turkish communications satellite. No firm dates have been established.

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