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Launch Photos: Spy Satellite NROL-71 Soars on Secret Mission Atop Delta IV Heavy Rocket

Another Setback

United Launch Alliance

In mid-December, ULA again tried to launch the NROL-71 mission, only to find a hydrogen leak in one of the Delta IV Heavy rocket's boosters. The mission was called off to make fixes.

Another Target

United Launch Alliance

ULA initially aimed for Dec. 30 to attempt another launch of NROL-71, but stood down to complete work on the hydrogen leak fix.

NROL-71 Rolling Out

United Launch Alliance

The NROL-71 spy satellite and its United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Ready to Fly

ULA/Twitter

By the second week of January, the Delta IV Heavy was ready to fly. This long-exposure image shows the rollback of the mobile service tower from the rocket during launch preparations.

Service Tower Rollback

United Launch Alliance

The NROL-71 spy satellite and its United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

ULA NROL-71 Mission Art

ULA

Mission artwork for NROL-71, a reconnaissance payload that launched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket on Jan. 19, 2019.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com 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 Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. 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 Twitter.