A secret U.S. spy satellite launched into space atop a 19-story rocket Thursday (Sept. 13), ending a six-week delay for the latest clandestine space mission by the National Reconnaissance Office.
An Atlas 5 rocket launched the new NROL-36 satellite and 11 tiny research satellites into orbit from a pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The rocket lifted off at 2:39 p.m. PDT (5:39 p.m. EDT/2139 GMT) following weeks of delay due to launch range issues.
"Liftoff occurred right on time at the top of the window," said launch commentator Don Spencer of United Launch Alliance (ULA), the company that oversaw the NROL-36 flight for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).
9/13/2012 - VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Team Vandenberg launched a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-3 here Sept. 13 at 2:39 p.m.
It was the fifth Atlas V processed at Vandenberg and the 606th Atlas mission in U.S. history.
"It's an honor to work alongside the men and women of Team Vandenberg, United Launch Alliance, the National Reconnaissance Office and our mission partners," said Col. Nina Armagno, 30th Space Wing commander. "These synergistic relationships are what guide Vandenberg to continual mission success and lead us into the next generation of spaceport excellence."
Western range launch operations were executed without incident.
The rocket carried a national security payload for the National Reconnaissance Office.
Vandenberg's next launch is a Minuteman III scheduled for Nov. 14.