Launch complex 37 Cape Canaveral, Florida: 4.30 a.m. (IST) Monday November 22: ``T-10-9-8-7-6-ignition sequence start, 3-2-1, engines running, commit and lift off! Lift off of the Delta-4 heavy rocket, guarding America's security with another critical satellite launch for the National Reconnaissance Office.''
When the countdown hit the zero mark, a mighty powerful rocket lifted off the launch pad with an awesome roar which reverberated all over the launch zone. Its mission: to place in orbit a spy satellite code named NROL-32. It is such a secretive project that even the NRO website does not have any information about it.
Described as the world's largest satellite, its primary role is to monitor communication of those nations which are not considered friendly to the US. The Delta-4 of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) is stated to be the US's biggest unmanned rocket. The NRO operates intelligence-gathering satellites.
The eavesdropping satellite will be placed in the geo synchronous orbit at an altitude of 22.300 miles above the equator. According to Spaceflight Now, on reaching its designated home in the geo synchronous orbit, it will unfurl an light but huge antenna shaped like an umbrella to monitor enemy communications. The massive antenna will span upto 328 feet and can be compared to the size of a football field. It is also equipped with sensitive radio receivers.
ULA and the USAF had earlier scheduled the launch last Thursday, but it got postponed on account of technical problems. Technical issues once again resulted in the launch being scrubbed on Friday. Finally, the rocket took off early on Monday morning (IST).
A space website ``Spaceports blogspot.com'' has reproduced a Youtube video of the launch.
Space-related websites have carried some bits of information about this top secret mission by contacting unofficial sources. By and large data provided by them is accurate. ``Beyond Moon and Mars'' is not surprised that no further information available about the satellite.
According to Spaceflight Now, this was the 351st Delta launch since the programme's maiden flight in 1960, the 14th mission of a Delta-4 and the fourth one by the most powerful Delta-4 heavy configuration rocket.