A classified payload belonging to the National Reconnaissance Office blasted off onboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas 5 rocket on Wednesday.
CBS News reports that the 191-foot-hight rocket launched without a hitch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The rocket provided 860,200 pounds of thrust as it lifted off, first heading south over the Pacific Ocean.
The Atlas 5 is delivering the payload to a polar orbit, where a number of weather and spy satellites hold a wide-view position over Earth.
“ULA is proud to deliver this critical satellite which will improve surveillance capabilities for our national decision makers,” Laura Maginnis of ULA said in a statement. “I can’t think of a better way to kick off the new year.”
This launch was the 70th Atlas 5 launch since the rocket was introduced in 2002. It is the second Atlas 5 launch of the year and the first of three slated to occur in March.
“The Atlas V 401 configuration has become the workhorse of the Atlas V fleet, delivering half of all Atlas V missions to date” Maginnis said. “ULA understands that even with the most reliable launch vehicles, our sustained mission success is only made possible with seamless integration between our customer and our world class ULA team.”
United Launch Alliance has conducted 116 successful launches since its inception in December 2006.
ULA will next be launching a Delta 4 rocket with a military communications satellite onboard. After the Delta 4 launch on March 8, ULA will launch an Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship on March 19, bound for the International Space Station. The Delta and Cygnus launches will both take place from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.