Air Force Launches Secret Spy Satellite NROL-36 (Photos)

NRO's Secret NROL-36 Payload Launches

Pat Corkery/United Launch Alliance

An Atlas 5 rocket ascends toward space carrying the classified NROL-36 satellite and 11 small science cubesats on Sept. 13, 2012, in a flight from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Atlas 5 Rocket Lifts Off with NROL-36 Spy Satellite

Pat Corkery/United Launch Alliance

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket blasts off from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., at 2:39 p.m. PDT with the NROL-36 national security payload for the National Reconnaissance Office.

Liftoff! Atlas 5 Launches with NROL-36 Satellite

Pat Corkery/United Launch Alliance

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket blasts off from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., at 2:39 p.m. PDT with the NROL-36 national security payload for the National Reconnaissance Office.

Atlas 5 Rocket Launches NROL-36

United Launch Alliance

The classified NROL-36 satellite launches into orbit on a mission for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office on Sept. 13, 2012, after a weeks of delay. The satellite launched atop a Atlas 5 rocket in a flight staged from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Atlas 5 Rocket Launches NROL-36

United Launch Alliance

An Atlas 5 rocket ascends toward space carrying the classified NROL-36 satellite and 11 small science cubesats on Sept. 13, 2012, in a flight from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Rollback of Atlas V NROL-36, VAFB

Patrick H. Corkery/United Launch Alliance

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V stands ready for launch at Space Launch Complex-3 with a national security payload for the National Reconnaissance Office.

Rollback of Atlas V NROL-36, VAFB

United Launch Alliance

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V stands ready for launch at Space Launch Complex-3 with a national security payload for the National Reconnaissance Office.

Payload Section of Atlas V NROL-36

Patrick H. Corkery/United Launch Alliance

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V stands ready for launch at Space Launch Complex-3 with a national security payload for the National Reconnaissance Office.

NROL-36 Spy Satellite Mated to Rocket

United Launch Alliance

The National Reconnaissance Office's classified NROL-36 satellite payload, encapsulated in a 4-meter nose cone, is attached to its Atlas 5 rocket in preparation for an Aug. 2 launch from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

NROL-36 Spy Satellite Mission Poster

NRO/United Launch Alliance

The mission posted for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office NROL-36 mission on Aug. 2, 2012.

Vandenberg’s 5th Atlas V Lifts Off

U.S. Air Force photo/ Lael Huss

Team Vandenberg launched a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying a National Reconnaissance Office payload from Space Launch Complex-3 here Sept. 13, 2012. It was the fifth Atlas V processed at Vandenberg and the 606th Atlas mission in U.S. history.

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