Surveillance: Delta enters orbit on top of fourth heavy rocket after US spy satellite delay

After a delay of months, a secret and mysterious U.S. spy satellite was launched into orbit around the Earth on top of a huge Delta IV heavy rocket.

The blast from Cape Canaveral, Florida, bore the payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office just after EST yesterday evening.

Experts estimate – based on the size and trajectory of the rocket – that the rocket was the latest to carry Orion’s large ‘signal detector’ satellite.

The program, which began in the mid-1990s, is expected to hear electronic communications from about 22,000 miles above the Earth’s surface.

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After a delay of months, a secret and mysterious U.S. spy satellite was launched into orbit around the Earth on top of a huge Delta IV heavy rocket. Image: Explosion off

The blast from Cape Canaveral, Florida, bore the payroll of the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office just after EST yesterday evening.  Pictured, rocket launch

The blast from Cape Canaveral, Florida, bore the payroll of the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office just after EST yesterday evening. Pictured, rocket launch

Experts estimate - based on the size and trajectory of the rocket - that the rocket (pictured mid-launch here) was the latest to be carried by Orion's large 'signal detector' satellite.

Experts estimate – based on the size and trajectory of the rocket – that the rocket (pictured mid-launch here) was the latest to be carried by Orion’s large ‘signal detector’ satellite.

Five were canceled after successful explosions stopped this autumn – including in August, a last-minute so-called ‘hotfire abort’.

Such incidents – in which rocket engines continue to burn but only moments after lift-off – are rare for space launches, and Delta is the first for the fourth class.

The space launch supplier in charge of the mission – the United Launch Alliance – has blamed the incident on a failure of part of the ground support equipment.

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Yet, even after the piece was replaced, the rocket had another failed launch sequence a month later, the countdown was canceled seven seconds before the explosion stopped.

The ‘Launch’ configuration of the United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV rocket is the firm’s most powerful launcher – second only to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy.

Since its debut in 2004, the Delta IV Heavy was used only 11 times before – mostly taking on classified missions like yesterday’s orbital delivery.

Four more missions are currently planned for the United Launch Alliance’s heavy rockets – after which the entire Delta Rocket family will retire and be replaced with the current under-development Vulcan rockets.

The Orion program - which began in the mid-nineties - is thought to hear electronic communications about 22,000 miles above the Earth's surface.  Illustrated, a 163-second-exposure image shows the Delta IV rocket flying into the sky after its launch yesterday.

The Orion program – which began in the mid-nineties – is thought to hear electronic communications about 22,000 miles above the Earth’s surface. Illustrated, a 163-second-exposure image shows the Delta IV rocket flying into the sky after its launch yesterday.

Five were canceled after successful explosions stopped this autumn - including a last-minute, so-called 'hotfire abort' in August.  Such a phenomenon - in which the engines of the rocket are about to burn but cut-off just moments before the lift off - is a rare occurrence for space launches and the first place in the Delta IV class.  Illustrated, the successful explosion stopped yesterday

Five were canceled after successful explosions stopped this autumn – including a last-minute, so-called ‘hotfire abort’ in August. Such a phenomenon – in which the engines of the rocket are about to burn but cut-off just moments before the lift off – is a rare occurrence for space launches and the first place in the Delta IV class. Illustrated, the successful explosion stopped yesterday

The United Launch Alliance's Delta IV rocket's 'heavy' configuration is the firm's most powerful launcher - and second only to SpaceX's Falcon Heavy.  Since its debut in 2004, the Delta IV Heavy was used only 11 times before - mostly taking classified missions like yesterday’s orbital delivery.  Illustrated, Delta IV is an extended cross section of heavy

The United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV rocket’s ‘heavy’ configuration is the firm’s most powerful launcher – and second only to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy. Since its debut in 2004, the Delta IV Heavy was used only 11 times before – mostly taking classified missions like yesterday’s orbital delivery. Illustrated, Delta IV is an extended cross section of heavy

Yesterday’s Delta Fourth Heavy Lift Off was not the only rocket launch this week.

On December 9, Elon Musk’s SpaceX conducted a test flight of a prototype ‘Starship’ craft, which successfully reached its target altitude of 7.8 miles, before – as Mr. Musk had estimated – exploded after landing.

Meanwhile, the firm is planning to launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a SiriusXM broadcasting satellite – from a launch pad from the recently acquired Delta IV Heavy Cap Canaveral.

The lift off of Delta IV Heavy (Figure) yesterday is not the only rocket launch this week.  On December 9, Elon Musk's SpaceX operated a prototype 'Starship' craft test aircraft, which had previously - according to Mr. Kastur's estimates - exploded after landing and successfully reached its target height of 7.8 miles.

The lift off of Delta IV Heavy (Figure) yesterday is not the only rocket launch this week. On December 9, Elon Musk’s SpaceX operated a prototype ‘Starship’ craft test aircraft, which had previously – according to Mr. Kastur’s estimates – exploded after landing and successfully reached its target height of 7.8 miles.

Meanwhile, SpaceX recently plans to launch the Falcon 9 rocket - a SiriusXM broadcasting satellite carrier - from the Cape Canaveral launch pad, occupied by the recently launched Delta IV Heavy.  Pictured, the Delta Fourth Heavy stood on its launch pad yesterday at Cape Canaveral

Meanwhile, SpaceX recently plans to launch the Falcon 9 rocket - a SiriusXM broadcasting satellite carrier - from the Cape Canaveral launch pad, occupied by the recently launched Delta IV Heavy.  Pictured, Delta Fourth Heavy is standing on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral yesterday

Meanwhile, SpaceX recently plans to launch the Falcon 9 rocket – a SiriusXM broadcasting satellite carrier – from the Cape Canaveral launch pad, occupied by the recently launched Delta IV Heavy. Pictured, Delta Fourth Heavy is standing on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral yesterday

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About the Author: Abbott Hopkins

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