Surveillance: US spy satellite put into orbit over Delta IV Heavy rocket after delays

After months of delays, a mysterious classified American spy satellite was put into orbit around the Earth on a huge Delta IV Heavy rocket.

Liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida, took place shortly after 8 p.m. EST last night, carrying its payload for the US National Reconnaissance Office.

Experts have speculated, based on the size and trajectory of the rocket, that the rocket carried the latest in the large Orion satellites of ‘signals intelligence’.

The program, which began in the mid-1990s, is believed to listen to electronic communications from some 35,000 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.

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After months of delays, a mysterious classified American spy satellite was put into orbit around the Earth on a huge Delta IV Heavy rocket. In the photo: take off

Liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida, took place shortly after 8 p.m. EST last night, carrying its payload to the US National Reconnaissance Office. Pictured, the rocket launch

Liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida, took place shortly after 8 p.m. EST last night, carrying its payload to the US National Reconnaissance Office. Pictured, the rocket launch

Experts have speculated, based on the size and trajectory of the rocket, that the rocket (shown here mid-launch) was carrying the latest of the large Orion 'signal intelligence' satellites.

Experts have speculated, based on the size and trajectory of the rocket, that the rocket (shown here mid-launch) was carrying the latest of the large Orion ‘signal intelligence’ satellites.

The successful takeoff followed five canceled launches this fall, including, in August, the so-called last-minute ‘fire abort’.

Such an event, in which a rocket’s engines are fired but then cut off moments before lift-off, is rare for space launches and a first for the Delta IV class.

United Launch Alliance, the space launch provider in charge of the mission, attributed this incident to a failure of a ground support equipment.

However, even after the part was replaced, the rocket had another failed launch sequence a month later, with the countdown aborted seven seconds before lift-off.

The ‘Heavy’ configuration of United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV rocket is the company’s most powerful launcher, second only to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy.

Since its debut in 2004, the Delta IV Heavy has only been used 11 times before, mostly performing missions classified as yesterday’s orbital delivery.

Currently, the United Launch Alliance is reported to have four more missions planned for heavy rockets, after which the entire Delta family of rockets will be retired and replaced by the Vulcan rockets, currently in development.

The Orion program, which began in the mid-1990s, is believed to listen to electronic communications from about 22,000 miles above Earth's surface.  In the image, a 163 second exposure image shows the Delta IV rocket flying into the sky after launch yesterday.

The Orion program, which began in the mid-1990s, is believed to listen to electronic communications from about 22,000 miles above Earth’s surface. In the image, a 163 second exposure image shows the Delta IV rocket flying into the sky after launch yesterday.

The successful takeoff followed five canceled launches this fall, including, in August, one last moment, the so-called 'hot abort'.  Such an event, in which a rocket's engines are fired but then shut off moments before liftoff is achieved, is a rare event for space launches, and a first for the Delta IV class.  In the picture, yesterday's successful takeoff

The successful takeoff followed five canceled launches this fall, including one last moment in August, the so-called ‘hot abort’. Such an event, in which a rocket’s engines are fired but then cut off a few moments before liftoff is achieved, is a rare event for space launches and a first for the Delta IV class. In the picture, yesterday’s successful takeoff

United Launch Alliance, the space launch provider in charge of the mission, attributed the launch failure in August to a malfunction in a piece of ground support equipment.  However, even after it was replaced, the rocket had another failed launch sequence a month later, with the countdown aborted seven seconds before lift-off.  In the photo, the Delta IV rocket yesterday

United Launch Alliance, the space launch provider in charge of the mission, attributed the launch failure in August to a malfunction in a piece of ground support equipment. However, even after it was replaced, the rocket had another failed launch sequence a month later, with the countdown aborted seven seconds before lift-off. In the photo, the Delta IV rocket yesterday

The 'Heavy' configuration of United Launch Alliance's Delta IV rocket is the company's most powerful launcher, second only to SpaceX's Falcon Heavy.  Since its debut in 2004, the Delta IV Heavy has only been used 11 times before, mostly performing missions classified as yesterday's orbital delivery.  In the image, an enlarged cross section of the Delta IV Heavy

The ‘Heavy’ configuration of the United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket is the company’s most powerful launcher, second only to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy. Since its debut in 2004, the Delta IV Heavy has only been used 11 times before, mostly performing missions classified as yesterday’s orbital delivery. In the image, an enlarged cross section of the Delta IV Heavy

The Delta IV Heavy’s liftoff yesterday isn’t the only rocket launch to take place this week.

On December 9, Elon Musk’s SpaceX conducted a test flight of a prototype ‘Starship’ spacecraft, which successfully reached its target altitude of 7.8 miles, earlier, as Musk had anticipated, exploding after landing.

Today, meanwhile, the firm plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket, carrying a SiriusXM broadcast satellite, from a launch pad at Cape Canaveral just miles from the one previously occupied by the recently launched Delta IV Heavy.

The Delta IV Heavy liftoff (pictured) yesterday is not the only rocket launch to take place this week.  On December 9, Elon Musk's SpaceX conducted a test flight of a prototype 'Starship' spacecraft, which successfully reached its target altitude of 7.8 miles, before, as Musk had anticipated, exploding after landing.

The liftoff of the Delta IV Heavy (pictured) yesterday is not the only rocket launch to take place this week. On December 9, Elon Musk’s SpaceX conducted a test flight of a prototype ‘Starship’ spacecraft, which successfully reached its target altitude of 7.8 miles, before, as Musk had anticipated, exploding after landing.

Meanwhile, today, SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket, carrying a SiriusXM broadcast satellite, from a launch pad at Cape Canaveral, just miles from the one previously occupied by the recently launched Delta IV Heavy.  In the picture, the Delta IV Heavy stopped at its launch pad at Cape Canaveral yesterday

Meanwhile, today, SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket, carrying a SiriusXM broadcast satellite, from a launch pad at Cape Canaveral, just miles from the one previously occupied by the recently launched Delta IV Heavy.  In the image, the Delta IV Heavy stopped at its launch pad at Cape Canaveral yesterday

Meanwhile, today, SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket, carrying a SiriusXM broadcast satellite, from a launch pad at Cape Canaveral, just miles from the one previously occupied by the recently launched Delta IV Heavy. In the image, the Delta IV Heavy stopped at its launch pad at Cape Canaveral yesterday

Liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida, took place shortly after 8pm EST last night, carrying its payload to the US National Reconnaissance Office.

Liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida, took place shortly after 8pm EST last night, carrying its payload to the US National Reconnaissance Office.

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