described the launch and mission as follows, “The second-to-last flight of United Launch Alliance’s Delta rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral early Thursday (June 22nd) and delivered a top secret spy satellite into orbit for the U.S. government, snapping the longest lull in launches in ULA’s history.

Liftoff of ULA’s 15th Delta 4-Heavy rocket, and 44th Delta 4 rocket overall, occurred at 5:18 a.m. EDT (0918 UTC) Thursday from Pad 37B at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. ULA’s launch team pushed back the launch time by more than 90 minutes Thursday after preparations fell behind schedule due to stormy weather.

The mission’s first launch attempt Wednesday morning was scrubbed due to an issue with a valve in a ground pneumatics system.

The 235-foot-tall (71.6-meter) Delta 4-Heavy rocket hauled into orbit a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office, the U.S. government’s spy satellite agency. The NRO does not officially disclose details about its satellites, but expert observers of military space missions believe the Delta 4 rocket sent a large spacecraft into orbit designed to intercept telephone calls, data transmissions, and other types of communication by U.S. adversaries.

The circumstances of Thursday’s launch, including its due east trajectory and the use of the Delta 4-Heavy, suggest it carried a type of satellite known publicly as an “Advanced Orion” or “Mentor” spy spacecraft. The Advanced Orion satellites fly in geosynchronous orbit, circling more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) and closely hugging the equator. In that orbit, the satellites fly in lock-step with Earth’s rotation, giving them fixed coverage areas over the same parts of the world 24 hours per day.”

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