SpaceX Aborts Launch of Spy Satellite for National Reconnaissance Office

SpaceX's launch of an NRO spy satellite is the last launch of 2020, according to Elon Musk.
Brad Bergan

SpaceX aborted the launch of a spy satellite to low-Earth orbit for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) on Thursday, Dec. 17 — which streamed live at 9:45 AM EST, according to the company's YouTube channel.

The Falcon 9 rocket was initially scheduled for a 9:45 AM EST blast-off, but was delayed less than two minutes before launch due to irregular sensor readings in the second-stage rocket, and later aborted.

The next launch attempt is scheduled on Friday, Dec. 18 — with a launch window opening at 9:45 AM EST.

This would have been the last launch of 2020, according to CEO SpaceX Elon Musk.


UPDATE Dec. 17, 11:07 AM EST: SpaceX 'stands down' from Falcon 9 launch of NROL-198 spy satellite

SpaceX's announced it is 'standing down' from recycling for a second launch attempt on Thursday, after a delay shortly before the initial launch time.

The vehicle and payload remain in good health, the team responded adequately, but the Falcon 9 launch is tomorrow, Friday Dec. 18, at 9:45 AM EST.

UPDATE Dec. 17, 10:50 AM EST: SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch initially delayed, still possibly launching before 12:00 PM EST

SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch of an NRO spy satellite was initially delayed when its second-stage sensor saw higher pressure readings, which triggered an auto-abort less than two minutes before launch.

As of writing, the SpaceX team is still deciding whether a recycled attempt at launch before the window closes at noon is warranted. Vehicle and payload are still in good health, according to the live stream.

A decision should be reached within 10 to 20 minutes from now.

More updates coming.

UPDATE Dec. 17, 10:10 AM EST: SpaceX's Falcon 9 auto-aborts, launch window still open

SpaceX's Falcon 9 carrying the NRO spy satellite auto-aborted in the final two-minute countdown to launch on Thursday — due to "a second stage sensor reading," according to a tweet from the company.

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"Today's launch window closes at 12:00 PM EST," added the tweet.

UPDATE Dec. 17, 9:56 AM EST: Falcon 9 launch of NRO spy satellite retry still possible

The SpaceX team is currently deciding whether a recycle is warranted for another launch attempt of the NROL-108 spy satellite on Thursday.

The launch window extends until 12:00 PM EST, but if we don't launch today, there is another launch window on Friday at the same 9:45-AM-EST time.

While there are no updates regarding the reason for this delay, there appear to be no additional obstructions to a subsequent launch attempt, at least 45 minutes away.

UPDATE Dec. 17, 9:44 AM EST: SpaceX launch mission control calls 'hold'

SpaceX's mission control called "hold" less than two minutes (1 minute 53 seconds) before launch, for as-yet unknown reasons. The countdown was reset to T-minus 45 minutes. While this doesn't mean the launch will go forward at a later time on Thursday, the window for launch does extend to 12:00 PM EST.

More developments to come.

SpaceX launching NROL-108 Spy Satellite

The flight is slated for launch from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida — during a three-hour window for blast off opening at 9:00 AM EST. But the exact time of launch has yet to be announced.

This will mark the 31st launch of 2020 for SpaceX and its go-to space rocket, the Falcon 9 — in addition to the company's third launch in little more than a week. On Dec. 6, SpaceX began its final launch series of the year when it ferried a newly-upgraded cargo Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station, which was the first time two such spacecraft were attached to the orbital outpost in history.

Days later, SpaceX launched a radio satellite into orbit for Sirius XM.

This is the last launch of 2020, according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. "Last launch of 2020 coming up," he tweeted.