CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - The U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) isn't saying much about its new spy satellite, now scheduled to blast off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Monday (May 1), but it will be heading into low-Earth orbit, SpaceX's launch license shows.
The license was issued on Friday by the U.S Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation, which has oversight of the mission, including responsibility for public safety.
The NRO mission, called NROL-76, will launch sometime between 7 and 9 a.m. EDT (1100 and 1300 GMT) after a 24-hour delay due to a rocket sensor issue. Its Falcon 9 booster will be flying from Pad 39-A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center here, where one of SpaceX's two Florida launch pads is located. The other pad, some 5 miles (8 kilometers) south at the adjacent Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, is undergoing reconstruction following a fueling accident last year that destroyed Spacecom's AMOS-6 communications satellite and its Falcon 9 booster.[Watch: How SpaceX Is Getting Into Military Launches]
Aside from flying from a civilian government range, which triggered FAA's oversight of the mission, the NRO purchased the rocket ride from SpaceX through a contractor, Ball Aerospace, a satellite and instrument builder based in Boulder, Colo.
Terms of the NRO's Launch Services Integrator contract, were not disclosed, said NRO agency spokeswoman Karen Furgerson.
Ball Aerospace could not be reached for comment.
In addition to the NRO launch, which was announced last year, SpaceX has won Air Force contracts to fly two next-generation Global Positioning System satellites in 2018 and 2019.
Under terms of its launch license, SpaceX was required to buy $160 million worth of insurance to cover potential claims resulting from the flight of the Falcon 9 from Kennedy Space Center and $12 million to cover potential damages during preflight activities.
The FAA also required SpaceX to buy another $100 million of insurance to cover damage to government property from a launch accident and $63 million to cover government property damage claims during prelaunch activities, the launch license shows. Editor's note: SpaceX's live webcast of the NROL-76 launch will begin Monday, May 1, at about 6:40 a.m. EDT (1040 GMT) for the 7 a.m. launch window opening. You can watch it directly from SpaceX here, or here at Space.com, courtesy of SpaceX.