Launch Photos: Secret Spy Satellite NROL-61 Blasts Off On Atlas V Rocket

At the Pad

United Launch Alliance

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the classified NROL-61 satellite is rolled from the Vertical Integration Facility to the pad at Space Launch Complex-41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Click here for launch video and our wrap story.

Up Close and Personal

United Launch Alliance/Ben Cooper

If you could get up close and personal with an Atlas V rocket, here's the view you'd see. The Atlas V rocket launched on July 28 was a 421 series variant. It stands nearly 107 feet tall. Click here for launch video and our wrap story.

Meet Spike

United Launch Alliance

The mission logo for the classified NROL-61 satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office atop an Atlas V rocket on July 28, 2016. The United Launch Alliance launched the mission from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Click here for launch video and our wrap story.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.