Liftoff came at 8:17 a.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch — ULA’s sixth this year, including three spy-sat launches — follows the June 11 ULA launch of a similar reconnaissance satellite aboard a Delta IV Heavy rocket. The Centaur second stage separated from the rocket’s booster stage just over four minutes after liftoff, but details of the actual firing of the satellite into orbit were classified and not shared publicly.
The latest launch and two previous spy-sat missions were under the auspices of the National Reconnaissance Office, one of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies. The NRO was created in 1961 at the height of the U.S.-Russian Cold War.
Centennial, Colo.-based ULA is a joint venture of aerospace-military contractors Boeing and Lockheed Martin.