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Atlas V Rocket Carries Top-Secret Satellite from Vandenberg

Late-night launch boosts payload into space for National Reconnaissance Office

An Atlas V rocket carrying a top-secret satellite roared into space late Thursday night from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The United Launch Alliance rocket, with a National Reconnaissance Office payload, soared from Space Launch Complex-3 on South Vandenberg at 11:14 p.m.

The towering rocket put on a fiery show as it cut through the cold night sky, and could be seen and heard throughout much of Santa Barbara County.

Earlier in the day, launch forecasters indicated the chilly weather gripping the Central Coast could force a scrub of the launch, but by late afternoon they were saying the chances looked good.

At 20 minutes prior to scheduled blastoff, officials had ruled out weather as a possible impediment to launch.

An Atlas V rocket soars into space Thursday night from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Photo from United Launch Alliance video)

The launch was the eighth by United Launch Alliance for the National Reconnaissance Office, and the fifth from Vandenberg.

"This was our eleventh launch for 2013 and I couldn't be more proud of this team of professionals," said Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander. "This new capability represents our commitment to enhanced competitive launch services in support of national defense."

The Atlas V launched Thursday night was 192-feet tall, and weighed some 76,000 pounds. I develops 860,000 pounds of thrust at liftoff.

In addition to the National Reconnaissance payload, the rocket also delivered 12 small CubeSats into orbits for a vareity of clients.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

An Atlas V rocket lifts off the launch pad late Thursday night at Vandenberg Air Force Base, carrying a top-secret payload for the National Reconnaissance Office. (Photo from United Launch Alliance video)

Thursday night's Atlas V launch as captured from Goleta with a 104-second time exposure. (Anthony Galvan III photo)

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