In Photos: NROL-47 Spy Satellite Launches Into Space on Delta IV Rocket

A Secret Mission is Born

United Launch Alliance/Jeff Spotts

On Jan. 12, 2018, the U.S. spy satellite NROL-47 launched into space atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. See video of the launch here! See photos from the stunning launch here. This Photo: The liftoff moment for NROL-47 as a secret mission is born.


United Launch Alliance/Jeff Spotts

The Delta IV rocket carrying NROL-47 lifted off at 2:11 p.m. PST (5:11 p.m. EST/2211 GMT) after two days of delays due to weather and technical issues. ULA launched the mission for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office.

NROL-47: The Logo

U.S. National Reconnaissance Office

Here's a close look at the NRO's mission emblem for the NROL-47 mission. "It depicts a battle between good and evil and signifies dedication to mission, military expertise and camaraderie," NRO officials wrote in a description of the image. "Mali Nunquam Praevalebunt" is Latin for "Evil will never prevail" and represents NRO's commitment to national security."

A Spy Satellite Ascends


This distant view shows the Delta IV rocket carrying NROL-47 as it ascends into the afternoon sky from its seaside pad at Vandenberg.

Next Stop Space


A United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket topped with the NROL-47 payload rises off the pad at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base on Jan. 12, 2018.

NROL-47 Spy Satellite Payload Assembly

United Launch Alliance

The classified NROL-47 spy satellite, encapsulated in its protective payload fairing, is seen before being attached to its Delta IV rocket for a launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Ready to Fly

Jeff Spotts/ULA

A Delta IV rocket stands ready to launch the NROL-47 mission from Vandenberg Air Force Base's Space Launch Complex-6.

Mobile Service Tower Rollback: NROL-47

Jeff Spotts/ULA

The Mobile Service Tower is rolled back from a Delta IV rocket at Space Launch Complex-6. The Delta IV Med+ (5,2) rocket will launch the NROL-47 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office.

Rocket in Twilight

Jeff Spotts/ULA

The glow of twilight offers a stunning backdrop for the United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket carrying NROL-47.

Lit for Launch

Jeff Spotts/ULA

Floodlights illuminate the Delta IV rocket ahead of the NROL-47 launch on Jan. 12, 2018.

NROl-47: The Poster

United Launch Alliance

The mission poster for the ULA Delta IV rocket mission launching the classified NROL-47 spy satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office.

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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.