After a series of delays, the US launched a spy satellite on a secret mission on 15 October, according to a report in CBS News.
The satellite, dubbed NROL-52, was carried into orbit on United Launch Alliance's (ULA) Atlas V rocket, which blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch was for National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which already maintains a fleet of spy satellites in the orbit.
Just like previous payloads, the exact mission of the latest satellite also remains unclear. No details were released by ULA except that the mission is in support of national security.
ULA also ended video and commentary of the launch, five minutes after the blast-off at the request of its customer, CBS News reported.
The launch came after a series of delays for the NRO. The original lift-off date was 5 October, but inclement weather conditions due to Hurricane Irma and technical glitches — replacement of telemetry transmitter in the booster — pushed the launch timeline by 10 days. This was ULA's seventh successful launch of the year and second in three weeks for the intelligence agency. On 23 September, it launched spy satellite NROL-42 using another Atlas V vehicle.
"After recovering from Hurricane Irma that came through the area last month, and last week's weather challenges, the team found the right opportunity today to deliver this critical national asset to orbit," said Laura Maginnis, ULA vice president of Government Satellite Launch.
The Atlas V carrier rocket used for the latest mission included a 4m payload fairing (PLF) and two solid rocket boosters. The mission soared through the thick lower atmosphere and appeared to proceed normally towards the orbit as long as the commentary was on.