Delta 4 Heavy Lifts off on Classified NRO Mission

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WASHINGTON — A Delta 4 Heavy rocket lifted off Aug. 28 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., carrying a classified payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

The launch of NROL-65 occurred at 2:03 p.m. EDT.

Denver-based United Launch Alliance conducted the launch on behalf of the NRO, the Chantilly, Va.-based federal agency responsible for the design, construction and operation of the country’s network of intelligence-gathering spy satellites.

Because the NRO mission is classified, very few details about the launch or the payload’s purpose are publicly released. The mission went into a media blackout shortly after its successful liftoff.

The launch was originally scheduled for 1:52 p.m. but was delayed because of “minor technical issues,” according to United Launch Alliance’s Twitter feed.

United Launch Alliance claimed a successful launch in a press release sent out about an hour after liftoff.

“We are truly honored to deliver this critical asset to orbit,” said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president for the Atlas and Delta programs.

The mission was the fifth Delta 4 Heavy launch for the NRO and the second Delta 4 Heavy launch from Vandenberg.

The NRO is expected to conduct one more launch in 2013.