Ending An Era, Final Delta 4 Heavy Boosts Satellite Into Orbit

Ending an era in U.S. rocketry, United Launch Alliance fired off its 16th and final triple-core Delta 4 Heavy Tuesday, launching a classified spy satellite in the last hurrah of a storied family of rockets dating back to the dawn of the space age.

The Heavy’s three hydrogen-fueled RS-68A first stage engines ignited with a rush of bright orange flame at 12:53 p.m. EDT, smoothly pushing the 235-foot-tall rocket away from pad 37 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

The launch came 12 days late, primarily because of work to replace a pump in a system that supplies nitrogen gas to multiple launch pads from a pipeline running through the Kennedy Space Center and the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. There were no problems Tuesday.

Mounted atop the rocket was a classified satellite provided by the National Reconnaissance Office, the secretive government agency that manages the nation’s fleet of sophisticated optical and radar imaging reconnaissance satellites and electronic eavesdropping stations.

In keeping with standard NRO-U.S. Space Force policy for such missions, no details about the NROL-70 payload were released.

But about six hours after launch, the National Reconnaissance Office declared the launch a success, indicating the satellite reached its planned orbit.

Read more here from CBS News.