A Vandenberg launch today of the world's largest rocket carried a very special payload. A spy satellite for the U.S. Government was launched into low-Earth orbit. According to the Associated Press on Aug. 28, 2013, Delta IV Heavy rocket carried a satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office into space.
Liftoff occurred at 11:03 a.m. PDT, about 10 minutes later than planned as engineers dealt with some last-minute minor issues.
The Vandenberg launch used a rocket that is 23 stories tall. The engine blast is so loud, that it could be heard from 50 miles away the last time one was launched from here in 2011. A nearby beach was closed and campers had to be evacuated. Nonetheless, about 200 cars lined the access road to watch the launch this morning.
This Vandenberg launch was a joint venture of both Lockheed Martin Corp. and The Boeing Co. called the United Launch Alliance. Its role is to provide the U.S. Government with launch services for the Atlas and Delta rocket programs.
The Delta IV Heavy rocket, also known as the Delta 9250H, was first launched in 2004. Its capacity ranges depending on if the payload is being carried into low-Earth orbit or escape orbit. It will be used to deploy the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) in 2014. The spacecraft will be used for manned missions to the Moon, asteroids and Mars.
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