WASHINGTON — An Atlas 5 rocket carrying a classified payload lifted off April 10 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., following a 16-day delay caused by technical issues at the launch range.
Denver-based United Launch Alliance conducted the launch on behalf of the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office, the Chantilly, Va.-based federal agency responsible for the design, construction and operation of the country’s intelligence-gathering satellites.
Because the mission is classified, few details about the launch or the payload’s purpose were publicly released. Liftoff of the mission, known as NROL-67, occurred at 1:45 p.m. local time. The mission went into a media blackout shortly after liftoff, but the Air Force confirmed in a press release the successful launch.
The launch, originally scheduled for March 25, was delayed due to a down-range tracking radar that overheated and stopped working, U.S. Air Force officials said. The glitch also delayed a scheduled launch of Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s Falcon 9 from the Cape.
Repairs of the radar were expected to take three weeks, but the Air Force was able to press another radar that had been in “standby status” into duty for the April 10 launch, the service said in an April 7 press release.
NRO Director Betty Sapp told the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee April 3 the agency had two more launches scheduled for the remainder of 2014. “Each one signifies enhanced intelligence capabilities for the warfighter,” she said in written testimony.
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