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Last-Minute Glitch Delays US Spy Satellite Launch

The Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying the classified NROL-71 spy satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office is seen at sunset Space Launch Complex 6 of California's Vandenberg Air Force Base on Dec. 8, 2018.
The Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying the classified NROL-71 spy satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office is seen at sunset Space Launch Complex 6 of California's Vandenberg Air Force Base on Dec. 8, 2018. (Image credit: United Launch Alliance)

The launch of a clandestine new satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office was delayed by a last-minute glitch less than 8 seconds before its planned liftoff late Saturday (Dec. 8). 

The spy satellite, called NROL-71, was 7.5 seconds from lifting off from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base on a Delta IV Heavy rocket at 11:15 pm EST (8:15 p.m. PST/0415 Dec. 9 GMT) when the problem occurred, according to the United Launch Alliance, which built the rocket. 

"The launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy carrying the NROL-71 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office was scrubbed today due to an unexpected condition during terminal count at approximately 7.5 seconds before liftoff," ULA representatives said in a statement. "The team is currently reviewing all data and will determine the path forward. A new launch date will be provided when available." The problem was detected by the rocket's the Terminal Countdown Sequencer Rack, they added. [Stacking Up the World's Tallest Rockets]

The Delta IV Heavy rocket is the most powerful booster in use by the United Launch Alliance, a cooperative launch service by Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The rocket stands 233 feet (71 meters) tall and can launch payloads of up to 14,000 pounds (6,350 kilograms) into geosychronous orbit.

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom and FacebookOriginally published on Space.com

Tariq Malik

SPACE.COM EDITOR IN CHIEF — Tariq joined the Space.com team in 2001 as a staff writer, and later editor, covering human spaceflight, exploration and space science. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times. 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. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Google+, Twitter and on Facebook.

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