United Launch Alliance's Rocket With National Reconnaissance Payload


Live coverage of the highly classified flight ended when the satellite payload separated from the rocket, less than four minutes after liftoff.

A rocket carrying a spy satellite launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base Friday afternoon after being delayed a day due to technical issues.

But the speculation about NROL-47 is just that, and Molczan says the satellite could be something else entirely because analysis of launch safety notices indicates the payload may be bound for a different orbit than the one used by earlier FIA radar satellites. Thursday's launch will be ULA's 27th for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office. The Delta IV rocket is supposed to launch the NROL-47 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office, according to ULA. A single RL10B-2 liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine powered the second stage.

The exact time of the launch, to become ULA's first this year, is yet unknown.

While details about the payload are classified, groups of amateur satellite trackers can use clues to narrow down the nature of the satellite, including its likely orbit and technology.

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The Delta IV launch system is available in five configurations: the Delta IV Medium (Delta IV M), three variants of the Delta IV Medium-Plus (Delta IV M+), and the Delta IV Heavy (Delta IV H).

Col. Greg Wood, 30th Space Wing vice commander, was the launch commander.

Today's launch was the first of 2018 for Colorado-based United Launch Alliance.

The blastoff and initial phases of the rocket's flight were a success.

Jim Sharkey is a lab assistant, writer and general science enthusiast who grew up in Enid, Oklahoma, the hometown of Skylab and Shuttle astronaut Owen K. Garriott.