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How to watch SpaceX launch a U.S. spy satellite today

SpaceX will shortly be launching a satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in a mission called NROL-85. The launch will use one of the company’s Falcon 9 rockets to carry the NROL-85 spacecraft into orbit and will take place from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The launch will be livestreamed, and we’ve got the details on how to watch along at home.

“The Falcon 9 first stage booster supporting this mission previously launched the NROL-87 mission in February 2022,” SpaceX writes. “Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage will return and land on Landing Zone 4 at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.”

How to watch the launch

The launch will be livestreamed by SpaceX, with coverage beginning around 15 minutes before liftoff. The coverage will include the countdown ignition sequence, the liftoff, the ascent of the rocket and Max Q (the point of maximum stress on the rocket), then the separation of the first and second stages, deployment of the fairing, and separation of the payload.

As is typical for SpaceX, the coverage will also include the landing of the first stage booster for future reuse. Reusable first stages have become SpaceX’s signature, with the boosters coming in to land typically on droneships positioned out at sea. This launch is somewhat unusual in that the first stage will come in to land on solid ground rather than in the ocean, but this is a feat that SpaceX has managed in the past, with boosters landing at Cape Canaveral in Florida on several previous occasions.

You can watch the launch livestream either using the video embedded near the top of this page, or by heading to SpaceX’s YouTube channel. Coverage will begin at around 9 a.m. ET (6 a.m. PT) today, Sunday, April 17.

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