SpaceX launched their 26th mission for the year a record for the company at 9:00 AM EST or 14:00 UTC from LC-39A Cape Canaveral Florida with the NROL-108 mission a spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office the Department of Defense. This is the very first time the NRO has used a previously flown rocket booster for one of its missions.

The first stage booster B-1059.5 made a perfect landing back on land at Cape Canaveral on LZ-1 nine miles form where it was first launched with the customary double sonic boom just before it landed. This is the third time it has returned to land along with two landings on the drone ship OCISLY for a total now of five flights to outer space.

B-1059.5 flew on two NASA missions with Cargo Dragon for CRS-19 & CRS-20 both resupply missions to the ISS along with a Starlink 8 (9) and SAOCOM 1B plus the flight today for NROL-108. Falcon 9 is 230 feet tall and produces 1.7 million pounds of thrust from nine Merlin engines.

The mission logo for the NRO was a gorilla pounding his chest with the words above Peace Through Strength. The NRO’s statement for the mission is: Gorillas are peaceful animals but can be fierce when necessary. Like the Gorilla, our NROL-108 mission is constantly vigilant & ready to defend its own, demonstrating NRO’s commitment to protecting U.S. war fighters, interest, and allies.

Another record as this mission closes out the year for rocket launches from Cape Canaveral is a year combined total of 31 launches for both SpaceX and ULA. Even with a global pandemic for most of the year this is a tremendous accomplishment by all involved.

On the count is now 107 total launches, 70 landings, 48 re flown rockets

Article and Photos by Scott Schilke for