US Launching New Spy Satellite Friday: How to Watch It Live

ULA NROL 47 mating
The National Reconnaissance Office's NROL-47 satellite, encapsulated inside a 16.5-foot (5 meters) payload fairing, is mated to a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Image credit: ULA)

Update for 8 pm ET: The launch of the spy satellite NROL-47 has been delayed to Friday, Jan. 12, at 4 p.m. EST. Visit then for complete launch coverage. 

The United States government plans to launch a new classified reconnaissance satellite Thursday (Jan. 11), and you can watch the liftoff live. The launch, originally planned for Wednesday, was delayed 24 hours due to high winds, according to launch provider United Launch Alliance (ULA).

The NROL-47 spacecraft is scheduled to launch atop a ULA Delta IV Medium rocket from California's Vandenberg Air Force today at 4 p.m. EST (2100 GMT; 1 p.m. local California time). Watch the liftoff coverage here at, courtesy of ULA, beginning at 3:40 p.m. EST (2040 GMT; 12:40 p.m. local time).

You can also watch the webcast directly via ULA

"We are ready and eager to take on this Delta launch," launch commander Col. Greg Wood, vice commander of the Air Force's 30th Space Wing, said in a statement. "We are proud to provide this national defense capability, and every Team V member involved has tirelessly worked to ensure the launch is safe and successful."

As its name suggests, NROL-47 will be operated by the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the agency in charge of the nation's fleet of spy satellites. NRO missions are generally classified, so it's unclear what NROL-47 will be doing as it cruises around Earth.

Today's liftoff will be ULA's first space mission of 2018, and its 27th overall for the NRO. The company launched three NRO satellites in 2017, all of them aboard Atlas V rockets

Today's launch will be the 36th by a Delta IV, a two-stage rocket that started flying in 2002, ULA representatives said.

If the NROL-47 launch isn't enough for you, you're in luck. Space agencies in China and India are also expected to launch rockets Thursday. 

At China's Xichang Satellite Launch Center, a Long March 3B rocket is scheduled to launch two Beidou navigation satellites into orbit to join the country's space-based navigation network. That launch is scheduled for around 6 p.m. EST (2300 GMT).

Later, the India Space Research Organisation will launch a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle carrying the Cartosat 2 Earth-mapping satellite and 30 other smaller payloads into orbit from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India. Liftoff is scheduled for 10:58 p.m. EST (0358 GMT). 

ISRO will provide a launch webcast here beginning at 10:30 p.m. EST (0330 GMT), according to ISRO officials. 

Editor's note: This story, originally posted at 7 a.m. EST on Jan. 10, has been updated to include launch delay details and the additional rocket launches scheduled for Jan. 11.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.