California usually shakes to earthquakes but today the largest rocket in West Coast history took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The 235 foot Delta IV rocket blasted off this morning with a launch that was heard over 50 miles away. The payload for the rocket is a satellite owned by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and is widely reported to be for visual and signals/intelligence (sigint) spying.
"This launch marks a significant milestone in our nation's space capability," said Lt. Col. Brady Hauboldt, launch director at Vandenberg.
"We've really restored a national capability for heavy lift on the Western Range, something we have not had since the last of the Titan IV-Bs flew out of Vandenberg. This extends our ability to cost effectively deliver payloads of all sizes and compliments."
According to ABC the billion-dollar satellite contains imaging technology capable of viewing objects a few inches across. It is an upgrade to earlier KH-11 spy satellites launched during the Cold War.
"KH-11s provide high resolution imagery, useful for strategic and tactical purposes," respected satellite tracker Ted Molczan told the station.
"They have the highest resolution of any such space craft in orbit, and are among the NOR's most important. Examples of hot spots that they monitor are North Korea and Iran and its nuclear program."
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