Delta 4 rocket lofts U.S. spy satellite

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WASHINGTON — A United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket  launched Feb. 10 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, carrying a classified payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office.

The launch went into a news blackout typical for NRO missions several minutes after its 6:40 a.m. Eastern liftoff. About two hours later, U.S. Air Force officials said the launch was successful.

The NRO has released no details about the NROL-45 mission, but outside observers believe the payload is a radar imaging intelligence satellite.

The NRO, a federal agency based in Chantilly, Virginia,  is responsible for the design, construction and operation of the United States’ network of intelligence-gathering spy satellites.

The launch followed closely on the heals of ULA’s Feb. 5 launch of the Air Force’s final GPS-2F series of timing, positioning and navigation satellites. The Boeing-built satellite launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, atop an Atlas 5 rocket.

“This is our second successful launch within five days for our U.S. government customer, a testament to our outstanding teamwork and focus on 100 percent mission success, one launch at a time,”  Laura Maginnis, ULA’s vice president of custom services, said following the Feb. 10 launch of NROL-45. “ULA is proud to be entrusted with safely and reliably delivering our nation’s most critical space assets to orbit.”