VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) -- A rocket carrying a national security payload was successfully launched Sunday from a base on California's central coast, Air Force officials said.
The Minotaur 1 rocket took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 4:26 a.m. amid clear skies, said Col. Richard Boltz, 30th Space Wing commander and the mission's leader. The launch, which was scheduled for Saturday, had been delayed by a day because of power problems with the rocket's safety equipment.
The four-stage, solid-fueled rocket was carrying a research and development spacecraft for the National Reconnaissance Office, but officials gave no further details on the craft's purpose or cost.
More than 200 people from the 30th Space Wing, Orbital Sciences Corp., the Space and Missile Systems Center and the National Reconnaissance Office collaborated on the project.
"I am extremely proud of the large group of professionals that came together to launch this rocket," Boltz said in a statement.
The 63-foot Minotaur 1 is among the smallest of the many rockets that launch from the base 160 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
The rocket is assembled from retired Minuteman stages combined with technology from Orbital Sciences. It can carry up to 1,278 pounds to low-earth orbit.
The launch was the 20th Minotaur mission since the first one launched from Vandenberg in 2000.
The next Vandenberg launch will be a Taurus rocket, also made by Orbital Sciences, scheduled to carry a NASA observation satellite into orbit on Feb. 23.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
for more features.