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Created 12-Dec-20
Modified 15-Dec-20
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Running more than three months late, a United Launch Alliance Delta 4-Heavy rocket took off Thursday and carried a U.S. government spy satellite into an orbit thousands of miles above Earth in the first mission from the newly-renamed Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

The 235-foot-tall (71-meter) rocket lifted off from pad 37B at Cape Canaveral at 8:09 p.m. EST Thursday (0109 GMT Friday) with thrust from three hydrogen-fueled RS-68A engines producing 2.1 million pounds of thrust, equivalent to 51 million horsepower.

The orange and white launch vehicle — the most powerful in ULA’s fleet — soared into a starry sky over Florida’s Space Coast, targeting a trajectory toward the east from Cape Canaveral over the Atlantic Ocean.

A classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office, owner of the U.S. government’s spy satellite fleet, was secured inside the Delta 4-Heavy’s nose cone for the rocket’s climb away from pad 37B.

The rocket’s three Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A engines steered the Delta 4-Heavy on an easterly course. The two side booster cores shut down and jettisoned to fall into the Atlantic ocean around four minutes after liftoff.