Rocket with secret payload launches from Calif.

Apr 04, 2012

(AP) -- A rocket carrying a top-secret payload blasted off Tuesday from the California coast.

The lifted off at 4:12 p.m. from the Vandenberg Air Force Base, about 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

"We've just seen the successful liftoff" of the rocket, launch commentator Don Spencer said in a webcast.

Since the launch involved a classified cargo for the National Reconnaissance Office, no details were immediately available about whether it was boosted to its intended orbit.

The reconnaissance office, which oversees the nation's constellation of spy satellites, has kept mum about the purpose of the mission and directed United Launch Alliance to cut off the live broadcast three minutes after liftoff.

think the rocket carried a satellite capable of seeing at night and through . In recent years, the United States has worked to phase out its fleet of older, heavier radar reconnaissance satellites with smaller but equally capable ones, said Charles Vick, a space policy analyst with the Globalsecurity.org think tank.

Such radar satellites would be able to zero in on countries of interest and see details that typical Earth satellites can't, experts said.

Tuesday's launch involved reconfiguring the rocket to add on two strap-on boosters to provide more thrust. The protective nose cone enclosing the payload also had to be made larger.

ULA, the joint venture of builders Corp. and Boeing Co., said it was the first time the Delta IV had been launched this way.

The launch was delayed nearly a week as engineers worked to fix an issue with the upper stage engine.

The next launch out of Vandenberg will be a flight test of the Minuteman III on April 10.

Explore further: The source of the sky's X-ray glow

4 /5 (4 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Rocket launches from California coast

Apr 15, 2011

A rocket carrying a national security payload has been successfully launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base on California's central coast.

Delta IV heavy blasts off from California

Jan 21, 2011

In an impressive show of rocket power, a United Space Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launched on Thursday afternoon with a classified spy satellite from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Falcon Heavy Rocket gets unveiled by SpaceX (Update)

Apr 05, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Private spaceflight company, SpaceX, unveiled their massive 22 story big Falcon Heavy rocket capable of carrying a cargo capacity of 117,000 pounds. The 27-enginge Falcon Heavy is aimed to ...

Recommended for you

Titan offers clues to atmospheres of hazy planets

10 hours ago

When hazy planets pass across the face of their star, a curious thing happens. Astronomers are not able to see any changes in the range of light coming from the star and planet system.

Having fun with the equation of time

11 hours ago

If you're like us, you might've looked at a globe of the Earth in elementary school long before the days of Google Earth and wondered just what that strange looking figure eight thing on its side was.

The source of the sky's X-ray glow

Jul 27, 2014

In findings that help astrophysicists understand our corner of the galaxy, an international research team has shown that the soft X-ray glow blanketing the sky comes from both inside and outside the solar system.

User comments : 0