The Atlas V rocket, an American spy satellite of the United Launch Alliance, blasted off into orbit Thursday morning on a secret endeavor.
Launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the rocket will soon be in orbit 22,300 miles above the equator, reported Florida Today. On top of the 20-story Atlas V sat NROL-61. It is the third of four National Reconnaissance Office-classified satellites that the ULA plans to set into space this year.
Five minutes into the flight the launch broadcast was blacked out, per request of the NRO to preserve the classified nature of the mission.
Following on the heels of the very first artificial satellite Sputnik 1, launched by the Soviets, the NRO was first established in 1961, according to Space. For more than three decades the U.S. spy agency worked in complete secrecy until it was declassified in 1992.
A fourth mission of the NRO this year, known as NROL-79, is expected to launch in December, also on top of the Atlas V. The first mission, the NROL-45, launched back in February while the NROL-37 took off atop the Delta IV Heavy just last month.