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Spy satellite launched into orbit

By Brad Lendon, CNN
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Thu August 29, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The new National Reconnaissance Office satellite was launched Wednesday
  • The satellite is thought to be capable of taking extremely detailed photos
  • It's being carried aloft by the biggest rocket in the U.S. inventory

(CNN) -- A massive rocket carrying a new U.S. spy satellite lifted off from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base Wednesday.

Details about the satellite, designated NROL-65, are classified. But the three-booster Delta-IV rocket used to send it aloft Wednesday is the heaviest in the U.S. inventory, capable of putting a 25-ton payload into low Earth orbit.

It's one of two launches the top-secret National Reconnaissance Office has on the books for late 2013, NRO Director Betty Sapp told a congressional committee in April.

The payload in Wednesday's launch is thought to be "a $1-billion high-powered spy satellite capable of snapping pictures detailed enough to distinguish the make and model of an automobile hundreds of miles below," the Los Angeles Times reported.

The 232-foot-tall booster was developed by the U.S. Air Force and the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between aerospace giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

NROL-65 is the second launch from Vandenberg of the Delta IV Heavy. The first was in January 2011.

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