The United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket lifted off at 2:11 p.m.
Due to the mission's classified nature, little is known about the NROL-47 payload, but it is believed to be radar reconnaissance satellite, operating from a retrograde orbit inclined 123 degrees. The rocket, which sailed through a mostly clear sky over the Lompoc Valley, carried with it a secret payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). "My honest thanks to the entire ULA team and our mission partners at the NRO and U.S. Air Force who made this, our 27 NRO launch, possible".
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.
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The launch will be the agency's first in 2018 at the air base northwest of Santa Barbara. Thursday's attempt was scrubbed "due to an issue with a ground system valve".
With more than a century of combined heritage, United Launch Alliance is the nation's most experienced and reliable launch service provider. The common booster core was powered by an RS-68A liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine. The Delta IV M+(4,2) uses two strap-on solid rocket motors (SRMs - GEM-60 boosters provided by Orbital ATK) to augment the first-stage CBC and a 4-m diameter PLF. "We are proud to provide this national defense capability and every Team V member involved has tirelessly worked to ensure the launch is safe and successful". According to the organization's website, "together with other Defense Department satellites, the NRO systems play a crucial role in providing global communications, precision navigation, early warning of missile launches and potential military aggression, signals intelligence, and near real-time imagery to US forces to support the war on terrorism and other continuing operations".