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Launch of New US Spy Satellite Delayed to Early 2019

The launch of an oft-delayed U.S. spy satellite has been pushed back again, this time to no earlier than Jan. 6, according to the United Launch Alliance. 

A ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket was scheduled to launch the clandestine satellite mission, called NROL-71, on Sunday (Dec. 30) from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base. The launch has been delayed several times due to rocket issues, most recently on Dec. 19 due to a suspected hydrogen leak on the booster. 

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying the NROL-71 spy satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office stands atop its launchpad at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base ahead of a Dec. 19, 2018 launch attempt. (Image credit: United Launch Alliance)

"The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy carrying the NROL-71 mission will launch no earlier than Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019," ULA representatives said in a statemement."The mission will launch from Space Launch Complex-6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California."

ULA's attempts to launch the NROL-71 mission on Dec. 7 and 8 were delayed by technical issues. An attempt on Dec. 18 was thwarted by high winds, leading to the Dec. 19 launch scrub.

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Tariq Malik

SPACE.COM EDITOR IN CHIEF — Tariq joined the team in 2001 as a staff writer, and later editor, covering human spaceflight, exploration and space science. He became's Managing Editor in 2009. Before joining, 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.