Classified NROL-47 mission launches from Vandenberg

Delta IV Rocket Launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base called off Thursday

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The mission will see the aerospace company launch a spy satellite into orbit using its Delta IV rocket. The rocket's second stage is propelled by an RL-10 engine. A minute and a half after that, now more than 60 miles up and traveling at more than 5,000 mph, the protective nose cone fairing was jettisoned, exposing the satellite to the space environment.

The third time was the charm for United Launch Alliance and its twice-delayed NROL-47 mission. It will be the last "single-stick" Delta 4-Medium rocket to fly from the remote facility on California's Central Coast.

The rocket was originally scheduled to lift-off on Wednesday, but high winds forced ULA to delay the mission. It will be updated once ULA announces new launch time.

Due to the payload's classified nature, officials have remained mum about its objective, cost and status.

As usual with classified payloads, no details about the NROL-47 satellite were released.

Ted Molczan, a respected independent satellite analyst, said the Delta's payload may be the latest Future Imagery Architecture radar satellite, capable of "seeing" the ground at night and through cloud cover.

The rocket is said to be carrying a spy satellite for the United States government.

In addition to being the first launch this year from VAFB, the NROL-47 mission was also the first overall launch of 2018 for ULA. According to the organization's website, "together with other Defense Department satellites, the NRO systems play a crucial role in providing global communications, precision navigation, early warning of missile launches and potential military aggression, signals intelligence, and near real-time imagery to US forces to support the war on terrorism and other continuing operations".

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