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
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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.


‘Unprecedented’ crackdown on crime welcomed by Afghans

Updated 33 min 32 sec ago
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‘Unprecedented’ crackdown on crime welcomed by Afghans

  • Interior Minister Amruallah Saleh's first act was to order his subordinates to ignore the long-standing tradition of presenting politicians with flowers and gowns when they are promoted
  • Saleh has also banned politicians and lawmakers from traveling with their ubiquitous security details (

KABUL: When Amruallah Saleh took office as Afghanistan’s interior minister last month, he wasted no time setting out his stall. His first act was to order his subordinates to ignore the long-standing tradition of presenting politicians with flowers and gowns when they are promoted.

“Lay down the flowers that you have bought as gifts for me on the graves of martyrs who you know from the security forces,” he said in a speech after assuming office last month. “Put the gown that you have bought for me on the shoulders of the broken-hearted fathers of the fallen.”

He went on to discuss his determination to act “mercilessly against criminals and the enemy.” At the time, many assumed Saleh’s comments to be the usual empty political promises so often heard from Afghan politicians assuming office in recent years, particularly as attacks by militants and criminal activity increased in Kabul in the early weeks of Saleh’s tenure. 

However, it seems as though Saleh, a former spymaster, is making good on his promise. The joint measures he has instigated with Kabul’s police chiefs to crack down on crime — including naming and shaming those wanted for involvement in criminal activity — have been a success. Some arrests have already been made, and a number of individuals on the blacklist have reportedly turned themselves in for questioning.

“He has shown decisiveness and courage by naming some of the culprits. That in itself is an initiative that has made people optimistic,” security analyst and retired general Attiqullah Amarkhail told Arab News.

Saleh has also banned politicians and lawmakers from traveling with their ubiquitous security details (usually traveling in a convoy of blacked-out vehicles) inside Kabul. Unsurprisingly, that move has attracted criticism from some senators, but has been welcomed by residents and other politicians.

Zaki Nadery, a Kabul resident, said the nation was “thirsty for reform” and that people already feel more secure in the city now that steps have been taken against lawbreakers, a sentiment echoed by several people interviewed by Arab News.

“People now have a relative sense of psychological and mental security. This is the result of tangible results from the work of the new minister. People have begun to trust and respect the police,” Nadery said.