A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 launch vehicle, carrying the NROL-67 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office, stands ready for launch from Space Launch Complex-41. (Photo : ULA)
A satellite built for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office launched yesterday, giving the Air Force a couple days to prepare the Eastern Range for SpaceX's planned liftoff on Monday.
United Launch Alliance sent the Atlas V rocket from its Cape Canaveral Air Force Station with approximately two million pounds of thrust.
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The 196-foot rocket carrying a classified National Reconnaissance Office satellite performed well several minutes after liftoff, before ULA ended its launch broadcast to preserve the "mission's secrecy," according to Space.com.
Some four hours later, ULA confirmed the launch had been a success.
"We are honored to deliver this national security asset to orbit," said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president for Atlas and Delta programs, in a statement, according to Florida Today.
A few amateur astronomers believe the satellite could be the first of a new type of signals intelligence spacecraft, set to orbit over 22,000 miles above the equator.
This scenario is based on the flight's trajectory and the fact that the powerful Atlas V rocket is capable of transporting satellites directly to a high-altitude orbit, according to Florida Today.
The launch was originally delayed for over two weeks due to an electrical short, which disabled a key Air Force tracking radar.
No issues were reported before launch on April 10.
"I am proud of the persistence and focus of the launch team, the wing, NRO, ULA and other mission partners, to make this launch happen," Brig. Gen. Nina Armango, 45th Space Wing commander, said in a statement, according to Florida Today.
On April 14, SpaceX will attempt its third ISS resupply mission under a current $1.6 billion NASA contract.