Credit: SpaceX

On Wednesday, just after noon, SpaceX will launch a national security payload for the National Reconnaissance Office from Vandenberg Space Force Base. Called the NROL-87, the undisclosed, classified payload will join other elements of the agency’s “overhead intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance” that provide information to the U.S. intelligence community, domestic agencies, the military, and lawmakers, according to the press kit for the launch.

Team Vandenberg, in announcing the launch on Monday, called the February 2 mission the first for the National Reconnaissance Office from the Western Range using a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The first stage of the famously reusable rocket will return to the base after detaching from the segment carrying the payload. Its return to Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex 4 several minutes after the 12:18 p.m. launch will create multiple sonic booms, which Vandenberg officials expect to be audible from San Luis Obispo to Ventura counties.

Because of COVID, the usual viewing locations near Vandenberg’s main gate will not be open to the public. SpaceX launches are generally livestreamed at both and its Twitter feed.

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