A Delta 4 Heavy rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office lifts off June 11 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Credit: Josh Dinner/SpaceNews

WASHINGTON — A United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy rocket launched June 11 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station 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 1:51 pm Eastern liftoff.

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. Because NRO missions are largely classified, the intelligence agency has not released any details about the mission, known as NROL-37.

Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and chief executive officer, confirmed the success of the mission on Twitter at 7:36 p.m. by tweeting “107,” a reference to the number of consecutive launches the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture has completed since its inception.


— Tory Bruno (@torybruno) June 11, 2016

The launch marked the first use of ULA’s Delta 4 Heavy rocket since December 2014, when it lifted for the Orion Exploration Flight Test (EFT)-1 mission for NASA.

Mike Gruss covers military space issues, including the U.S. Air Force and Missile Defense Agency, for SpaceNews. He is a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.