US spy satellite launches

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, California (AP) — A massive rocket carrying a spy satellite for the U.S. government launched from the California coast Wednesday.

The Delta IV Heavy rocket left the launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base and sped toward low-Earth orbit, officials at United Launch Alliance said.

The rocket carried a satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office, which oversees the nation’s constellation of intelligence-gathering satellites.

Since the mission is classified, no other details were available.

United Launch Alliance is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp. and The Boeing Co. to provide space launch services to the federal government with their Atlas and Delta rocket programs.

At 23 stories, the Delta IV Heavy is the largest rocket in the country. The last time it launched from Vandenberg — in 2011 — the roar of the engines shook the nearby city of Lompoc. Some people reported hearing the engine roar from 50 miles (80 kilometers) away.

This time around, the three main engines were ignited one after another to lessen the impact during liftoff.

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