Rocket blasts off from Cape Canaveral with secret payload

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., July 28 (UPI) — An Atlas V rocket blasted into space from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Thursday morning, carrying a secret payload from the National Reconnaissance Office.

Notices were issued that the rocket would climb southeast over the Atlantic Ocean, with its payload headed for geosynchronous orbit 22,000 miles above the earth, suggesting a communications satellite. The NRO, a secretive government agency that regularly sends spy satellites into space but only acknowledged the launches in 1996, offered no information on the mission.

Observers speculate the rocket carried the first in a new generation of communications satellites, designed to relay images from upgraded spacecraft in lower orbits, USA Today reported. The relay satellite would sit in space, awaiting the launch of improved imaging satellites.

The launch was the sixth successful launch this year for the United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

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