Captain Rick: The Space Shuttle is history, but not the excitement of new space machines. This launch of the massive 3-booster Delta-IV Heavy rocket, with the capability of placing a 25-ton payload into orbit, introduces the ability to visually identify the make and model of a vehicle from 250 miles up.
Remember those movies where satellites could zoom in and see what is going on down on earth? It has all been science fiction…until now. If all goes well, that fiction will take a bold step towards reality with this launch.
Today’s inspiring launch was the second for this new 232-foot-tall monster rocket machine from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The first was in January 2011. A new era has begun.
Details about the satellite, designated NROL-65, are classified. The three-booster Delta-IV rocket used to send it aloft Wednesday is the heaviest in the U.S. inventory, capable of putting a 25-ton payload into low Earth orbit.
Todays launch was one of two launches the top-secret National Reconnaissance Office has on the books for late 2013.
The payload in Wednesday’s launch is thought to be a $1-billion high-powered spy satellite capable of snapping pictures detailed enough to distinguish the make and model of an automobile hundreds of miles below.
The 232-foot-tall booster was developed by the U.S. Air Force and the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between aerospace giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin.