Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
A secret satellite launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Friday morning aboard a Delta IV-Heavy rocket, reports the Associated Press (AP).
The satellite belongs to the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which is keeping its lips sealed as to what the purpose of the orbiter is.
This was the second secret satellite launch the NRO performed in the last two weeks. The first satellite was taken up by an Atlas V rocket on June 20.
The Delta launch was delayed a day due to the weather conditions caused by Tropical Storm Debby.
The launch also was delayed three hours on Friday morning because of technical issues with the sticky valve.
The Delta IV-Heavy rocket stands at 235 feet tall and is the largest and most powerful rocket currently in service. The rocket is capable of carrying payloads of up to 24 tons.
The launch was broadcast live, but the feed cut off just four minutes after liftoff at the request of NRO officials.
United launch Alliance said that upgrades to its Delta IV rocket for NRO enabled it to carry over 1,000 pounds more payload to high orbits than a normal Delta IV heavy-lift rocket.
WKMG Orlando reports that Ted Molczan, an amateur astronomer who specializes in tracking secret payloads, believes the mission is a continuation of the “Misty” satellite program.
He believes the heavy-lift Delta IV’s extra power will help send a decoy satellite into a higher orbit, helping to disguise satellite locations.
The other two Misty satellite launches both were used to create deception tactics that “may have provided some of the motivation to enhance the ruse” for a third launch, Molczan wrote on the “SeeSat” listserv, according to the Orlando news station.
“There are less demanding options that do not involve the use of a decoy, but the ruse probably would be far less convincing,” he wrote.
The report also tells of another opinion by Jeffrey Richelson, a conspiracy book writer, who believes the Misty program was cancelled before a third spacecraft was built.
Richelson believes the mission will see that an intelligence satellite orbits at about 22,000 miles above the Earth, where it could intercept voice communications or telemetry from missile tests.