SpaceX rocket lifts off on first launch for US military

A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket carrying a classified satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office lifts off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Monday. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Updated 01 May 2017
0

SpaceX rocket lifts off on first launch for US military

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Florida on Monday, carrying the company’s first satellite for the US military, and breaking a 10-year monopoly held by a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
The 23-story tall rocket took off from its seaside launch pad at Kennedy Space Center at 7:15 a.m. EDT (1115 GMT.)
It will put into orbit a classified satellite for the US National Reconnaissance Office, an agency within the Defense Department that operates the nation’s spy satellites.
Nine minutes after takeoff, the rocket’s main section touched down on a landing pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, just south of NASA’s spaceport.
Last month, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. flew its first recovered booster on a second mission, a key step in company founder Elon Musk’s quest to cut launch costs.
The National Reconnaissance Office bought SpaceX’s launch services via a contract with Ball Aerospace, a Colorado-based satellite and instrument builder. The terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Musk battled for years to break the monopoly on the military’s launch business held by United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
SpaceX sued the US Air Force in 2014 over its exclusive multibillion-dollar contract with United Launch Alliance. The company later dropped the suit after the military agreed to open more launch contacts to competitive bidding.
SpaceX has since won two launch contracts from the Air Force to send up Global Positioning System satellites in 2018 and 2019.
Monday’s launch was the 34th mission for SpaceX and the fifth of more than 20 flights planned for this year.
The privately owned firm, based in Hawthorne, California, has a backlog of more than 70 missions, worth about $10 billion.


US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

Updated 19 April 2019
0

US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

  • A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend
  • The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group

KABUL: The US envoy for peace in Afghanistan expressed disappointment on Friday after the collapse of a planned meeting between the Taliban and a group of Afghan politicians in Qatar that exposed some of the deep divisions hampering efforts to end the war.
A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend. The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group, which included some government officials attending in a personal capacity.
“I’m disappointed Qatar’s intra-Afghan initiative has been delayed,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghan reconciliation, said on Twitter. “I urge all sides to seize the moment and put things back on track by agreeing to a participant list that speaks for all Afghans.”
The collapse of the meeting before it had even started, described as a “fiasco” by one senior Western official, laid bare the tensions that have hampered moves toward opening formal peace negotiations.
Khalilzad, a veteran Afghan-born diplomat, has held a series of meetings with Taliban representatives but the insurgents have so far refused to talk to the Western-backed government in Kabul, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.
The Doha meeting was intended to prepare the ground for possible future talks by building familiarity among Taliban officials and representatives of the Afghan state created after the US-led campaign that toppled the Taliban government in 2001. A similar encounter was held in Moscow in February.
President Ashraf Ghani’s office blamed Qatari authorities for the cancelation, saying they had authorized a list of participants that differed from the one proposed by Kabul, “which meant disrespect for the national will of the Afghans.”
“This act is not acceptable for the people of Afghanistan,” it said in a statement on Friday.
Sultan Barakat, director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies in Qatar, which had been facilitating the meeting, said there was no disagreement about the agenda.
“Rather, there is insufficient agreement around participation and representation to enable the conference to be a success,” he tweeted.
Preparations had already been undermined by disagreements on the government side about who should attend, as well as by suspicions among rival politicians ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September.
The Taliban derided the agreed list of 250 participants as a “wedding party.” Some senior opposition figures who had been included refused to attend.
The Taliban also objected to Ghani’s comments to a meeting of delegates that they would be representing the Afghan nation and the Afghan government, a statement that went against the insurgents’ refusal to deal with the Kabul administration.