Watch the World's Largest Rocket Launch a Top Secret Spy Satellite

An earlier Delta IV Heavy launch by the NRO, delivering...something? (Image: ULA)

We don’t know the type or purpose of the new spy satellite being launched by the US National Reconnaissance Office. What we do know is that its launch, aboard the world’s largest rocket, is happening today at 1:59 p.m. EDT—and it’s definitely going to look spectacular. [Update: The launch is now on Saturday, on account of weather.]

As is appropriate for a super-secret-spy mission, details of the mission are very shadowy. The NRO has described satellite NROL-37 simply as a “national security payload” designed by the NRO, the United Launch Alliance (who builds the Delta IV series), and the Air Force.

NROL-37 Mission Patch (Image: NRO)

They also released this mission patch, which they explained cryptically as a “mission Patch [that] depicts a knight standing in front of the US flag in a defensive posture. The eagle on the chest represents freedom.”

Although details on what it will carry are sparse, details on the rocket itself are much clearer. Currently, ULA’s Delta IV Heavy rocket is the world’s most powerful rocket. When SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket gets off the ground this year, though, it will scoop that title away from the Delta IV.

The Delta IV Heavy will be blasting off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It’s scheduled to lift off at precisely 1:59 pm EDT (weather permitting), although the livecast kicks off 20 minutes earlier at 1:39 pm. You can watch the whole thing right here.


Update 1:00 pm: The weather is still looking a little dicey, as you can see in this shot below from this morning. But the launch is on-schedule and the rocket is loaded onto the pad to head out in the next hour.

Update 1:54 pm: With just five minutes to spare, launch control pushed the schedule back to 2:55 pm EDT, on account of the weather. There are some fears of a lightning storm in the area, and they’re hoping it clears up by then.


Update 2:45 pm: Another pushback on the launch window to 3:05 pm, while they try and figure out if it can still make it up today.

Update 5:50 pm: And it looks like we’ll see a launch in 8 minutes!

Update 6:05 pm: With 50 seconds to spare, the launch was called off and re-scheduled, due to weather conditions. It’s set to go back up at 1:51 pm on Saturday.

Image: ULA

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