US Launching Secret Spy Satellite Today! Here's How to Watch Live

Update for 2:50 p.m. EST: A United Launch Alliance Delta IB Heavy rocket successfully launched the new U.S. spy satellite NROL-71 into orbit today. Read our wrap story here.   Photos Launch Video!

The United States plans to launch a hush-hush spy satellite Saturday (Jan. 19), and you can watch the liftoff live.

The NROL-71 spacecraft is scheduled to launch atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base at 2:05 p.m. EST (1905 GMT; 11:05 a.m. local California time). You can watch it live here at, courtesy of ULA, or directly via the launch provider.

The webcast will be brief; ULA is expected to cut off the live feed after about 6 minutes, to help preserve the secrecy of NROL-71's mission. (The satellite's instruments and activities are classified, as are those of other spacecraft operated by the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office.)

The mobile service tower rolls back from the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying the NROL-71 spacecraft in preparation for launch from Space Launch Complex-6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The launch is scheduled to take place on Jan. 19, 2019. (Image credit: United Launch Alliance)

Saturday's liftoff is a long time coming. NROL-71 was originally scheduled to take flight in early December, but technical issues and uncooperative weather pushed the launch back multiple times

Then, ULA nixed a Dec. 19 attempt after noticing a hydrogen leak coming from the Delta IV Heavy. That issue ended up taking several weeks to resolve.

Saturday's liftoff will be the second in five-plus months for the 232-foot-tall (71 meters) Delta IV Heavy, ULA's most powerful rocket. A Delta IV Heavy also lofted NASA's Parker Solar Probe in August 2018.

Mike Wall's book about the search for alien life, "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate) is out now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us @Spacedotcom or Facebook. Originally published on

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

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.