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A Delta IV rocket blasted off Friday evening from Cape Canaveral launch Complex-37 carrying a secret payload for the National Reconnaissance Office. Called NROL-27, the mission was said to be in support of national defense. This marks the fourth NRO launch accomplished by ULA since Sept. 20, 2010 and occurred just six days after the Atlas V launch of the second Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-2) — the mini space shuttle on another secret mission.
The Delta 4 rocket is 62.5 meters (205 feet) tall and consists of one main booster with two small solid rocket boosters, and can launch payloads up to 13.5 tons into low-Earth orbit and 6.6 tons toward the higher geosynchronous orbits used by communications satellites.
The rocket is built and launched by the United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
“Congratulations to the NRO and to all the mission partners involved in this critical national security launch,” said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Mission Operations. “ULA is very proud to have supported the NRO with this fourth successful launch in such a short period of time. Our launch team understands the importance these missions play in protecting our freedoms and supporting our brave men and women deployed around the world.”