Rocket launch scheduled over Tucson

Rocket launch scheduled over Tucson

This flight marked the first of 2018 for ULA.

The mission - dubbed NROL-47 - is classified, so we don't know much about the payload and what it'll be used for once in orbit.

The launch will be streamed live. The company has already carried out 26 launches for NRO.

The secretive mission will be ULA's 27th for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) - the agency in charge of the United States fleet of spy satellites. The agency was formed in 1961 and was declassified to the public in 1992.

While details about the payload are classified, groups of amateur satellite trackers can use clues to narrow down the nature of the satellite, including its likely orbit and technology. NROL-47 will join the Future Imagery Architecture (FIA) satellite constellation, which flies under the code name Topaz. Today's launch employed the "5,2" variant of the Delta IV - meaning the rocket featured a 5-meter-wide (16.5 feet) payload fairing and two solid rocket boosters strapped to the core stage. The main engine of the Delta IV is theRS-68A, manufactured by Aerojet Rocketdyne.

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Consuming almost 2,000 pounds of liquid propellant per second, the 220-foot-tall rocket rapidly accelerated as it climbed out of the thick lower atmosphere, discarding the strap-ons about one minute and 40 seconds after liftoff.

"We're counting down", ULA tweeted on Thursday morning.

The NROL-47 launch was scheduled for January 10th, but it was scrapped because of high ground winds.

Last month, a SpaceX rocket launch from Vandenburg during the sunset created a shimmering streak across the sky.

With operational launch pads on both coasts-Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and Space Launch Complex-6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. -every Delta IV configuration is available to service the requirements of current and future satellite programs. "The entire team - the 30th Space Wing, the National Reconnaissance Office, United Launch Alliance, and others - worked hand-in-hand to ensure this launch was safe and successful".

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