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Delta 4 rocket successfully lofts clandestine NRO satellite into orbit

13 Jan 2018, 07:02 UTC
Delta 4 rocket successfully lofts clandestine NRO satellite into orbit
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A United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Friday. Credit: ULA
A United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket climbed into orbit Friday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California with a top secret spy satellite, adding a new set of eyes in the sky for the U.S. government’s intelligence community and nudging part of the Delta 4 family closer to retirement.
The 217-foot-tall (66-meter) Delta 4 rocket lifted off at 2:11 p.m. PST (5:11 p.m. EST; 2211 GMT) from Space Launch Complex 6 at Vandenberg on the power of an Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A main engine and two Orbital ATK-built solid rocket boosters.
The RS-68A engine ignited with a burst of orange flame, spinning up its pumps to consume super-cold liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for a four-minute firing.
Two side-mounted solid rocket boosters fired as the countdown clock ticked down to zero, combining with the RS-68A main engine to send the Delta 4 away from the historic SLC-6 launch pad atop 1.2 million pounds of thrust.
The Delta 4 arced to the southwest over the Pacific Ocean, surpassing the speed of sound in less than a minute and dropping its two spent solid ...

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