Rocket blasts off with secret U.S. spy satellite |

Rocket blasts off with secret U.S. spy satellite

The Associated Press
Patrick H. Corkery / United Launch AllianceAn Atlas 5 rocket is launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base early Thursday.

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE – An Atlas 5 rocket carrying a secret U.S. satellite lifted off before dawn Thursday, officials said.

The 191-foot-tall booster blasted off from the southern end of the Central Coast air base at 3:02 a.m., marking the maiden flight of a big Atlas 5 rocket from the West Coast.

“It went great,” said United Launch Alliance spokesman Mike Rein.

But Rein said he couldn’t confirm whether the satellite had successfully reached orbit, “because of the nature of the launch.”

The Atlas 5 carried a classified satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office, the agency that oversees the nation’s constellation of spy satellites. No details of the secret mission were released.

The launch was delayed for two weeks as a precaution against possible space debris from a failed U.S. spy satellite that was blown up by a missile launched from a Navy ship.

The Atlas 5 is made by the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture by Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. The rocket is designed to provide reliable access to space for heavier military payloads.

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