‘Majestic’ ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket lift offs off sending spy satellite into orbit

NROL-44 launch faced a handful of delays but launch put on a fiery show

Following a months-long wait and a few scrubs, the mighty Delta IV Heavy rocket finally launched Thursday night from Cape Canaveral.

The United Launch Alliance rocket fired up and soared off the pad at 8:09 p.m. from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station Launch Complex 34. The mega rocket put on a light show in the night sky over the Space Coast.

“The Majestic Delta IV Heavy is tearing through the sky,” ULA CEO Tory Bruno tweeted. “All systems nominal.”

The facility where the launchpad is located got a name change Wednesday during Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Brevard County for the National Space Council meeting. Formerly an Air Force Station, it is now Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Patrick Air Force Base was also renamed as a Space Force base.

While the name where the pad is a little different, it’s still the same payload ULA has been trying to launch for the National Reconnaissance Office since August. The spy satellite is called NROL-44.

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This marked at least the sixth attempt to launch the secret mission for the NRO. Technical and weather violations led to delays and, most recently, in October, ULA was evaluating an issue with the swing arm retraction system.

Last month, ULA launched another spy satellite for the NRO on an Atlas V rocket from a different launch pad.

After the national security mission, SpaceX is scheduled to launch a Falcon 9 rocket Friday with a satellite for SirusXM radio. That launch window opens at 11:20 a.m. and will take flight from Space Launch Complex 40, also at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.


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