US defense satellite launched from California

September 13, 2012

(AP)—An Atlas 5 rocket carrying a classified satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office blasted off Thursday from the central California coast.

The launch vehicle's main engine ignited on time for a mission described only as being in support of national defense.

"We've just seen a successful liftoff," United Launch Alliance commentator Don Spencer said after confirmation of upper stage ignition and separation of the aerodynamic fairing covering the payload about 4½ minutes into the flight.

As is customary during such secrecy-laden missions, a webcast of the launch ended at that point.

It was the fourth launch this year for the NRO, which operates the nation's system of intelligence-gathering satellites. The launch was delayed six weeks due to launch range equipment problems.

For the first time on an NRO flight, the rocket's excess capacity was used to boost 11 tiny satellites for other customers.

Called Cubesats, the small satellites will conduct research on subjects ranging from space weather to tracking maritime shipping containers.

In addition to the Army, Aerospace Corp., NASA and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Cubesats include projects by the University of Southern California; University of Colorado, Boulder; California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo; University of California, Berkeley; and Kentucky's Morehead State University.

Explore further: Launch delayed for satellite to watch space debris


Related Stories

Launch delayed for satellite to watch space debris

July 6, 2010

(AP) -- The launch of a new U.S. Air Force space surveillance satellite has been delayed due to a software problem in a rocket similar to the one that will lift the satellite into orbit.

Rocket launches from California coast

April 15, 2011

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

Recommended for you

Getting into the flow on the International Space Station

December 1, 2015

Think about underground water and gas as they filter through porous materials like soil and rock beds. On Earth, gravity forces water and gas to separate as they flow through the ground, cleaning the water and storing it ...

Exiled exoplanet likely kicked out of star's neighborhood

December 1, 2015

A planet discovered last year sitting at an unusually large distance from its star - 16 times farther than Pluto is from the sun - may have been kicked out of its birthplace close to the star in a process similar to what ...

Cassini mission provides insight into Saturn

December 1, 2015

Scientists have found the first direct evidence for explosive releases of energy in Saturn's magnetic bubble using data from the Cassini spacecraft, a joint mission between NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian ...

Timing a sextuple quasar

December 1, 2015

Quasars are galaxies with massive black holes at their cores around which vast amounts of energy are being radiated. Indeed, so much light is emitted that the nucleus of a quasar is much brighter than the rest of the entire ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.