Delta 4 rocket launches spy satellite into space

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United Launch Alliance (ULA) is planning to conduct its first launch of 2018 this afternoon with a spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office as its payload.

Friday's launch took place five days after the United States reportedly lost another secret satellite - named Zuma - on a Falcon 9 rocket manufactured by rival rocket company Space X, according to a ULA webcast. The mission is dubbed NROL-47.

It's possible ULA's launch delays were the result of a more cautious approach - adopted in the wake of the Zuma mission failure. The NRO publicized the launch with generic tweets, saying the mission was the first of two planned by the agency this year. The common booster core was powered by an RS-68A liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine.

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The Delta IV launch system is available in five configurations: the Delta IV Medium (Delta IV M), three variants of the Delta IV Medium-Plus (Delta IV M+), and the Delta IV Heavy (Delta IV H).

The blastoff and initial phases of the rocket's flight were a success. After staging, an Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10B-2 granted some 24,750 pounds of thrust, sending the Delta IV's upper stage to orbit. Beginning in 2019, Orbital ATK will provide upgraded GEM 60 solid rocket boosters, designated GEM 63 and GEM 63XL, for ULA's Atlas V and new Vulcan launch vehicles, respectively. "The entire team - the 30th Space Wing, the National Reconnaissance Office, United Launch Alliance, and others - worked hand-in-hand to ensure this launch was safe and successful".

Jim resides in the San Francisco Bay area and has attended NASA Socials for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover landing and the NASA LADEE lunar orbiter launch.