Secret U.S. Payload Blasts Off Aboard Atlas V Rocket
By Ed Pierce // June 20, 2012
Picture Perfect Liftoff
BREVARD COUNTY • CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA – An Atlas V rocket equipped with a secret payload lifted off at 8:28 a.m. today from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The launch of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the NROL-38 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office was delayed from Monday because of a faulty environmental control system duct near its connection to the Mobile Launch Platform.
The vehicle was rolled back to the Vertical Integration facility at Cape Canaveral for removal and replacement of the duct Sunday afternoon and returned to the launch pad Tuesday.
This successful Atlas V launch was the fifth overall for United Launch Alliance this year and the 61st overall for the company.
It also was the second of four planned launches by ULA in 2012 and the first of three separate launches over a span of next six weeks.
The National Reconnaissance Office would not tell what the secret payload is, other than it is in support of national defense.
The Atlas V rocket such as the one used to launch NROL-38 today uses more than 860,000 pounds of thrust at liftoff through its RD-180 main engine.