Air Force Delta 4 rocket lofts secret satellite into space

CBS News

Climbing away through a cloudless blue sky, a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket boosted a secret National Reconnaissance Office satellite into space Friday, capping a busy week on Florida's Space Coast.

Two days after the shuttle Discovery returned to Earth after a space station resupply mission -- and just a few hours after the shuttle Endeavour was hauled to its launch pad for an April 19 liftoff -- the medium-class Delta 4 rocket's two strap-on solid-fuel boosters thundered to life at 6:38 p.m. EST (GMT-5), quickly pushing the towering rocket away from Space Launch Complex 37B at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Liftoff came 41 minutes late because of high upper level winds, but conditions improved as the evening wore on, resulting in a spectacular climb to space in the fading light of the setting sun.

The early stages of the flight appeared normal and the strap-on boosters were jettisoned as planned followed by burnout and separation of the rocket's first stage. The second stage then ignited and the nose cone fairing protecting the secret NROL-27 satellite separated and fell away four minutes and 42 seconds after liftoff.

At that point, following standard practice for classified launchings, commentary ended and no additional details were available.