VENTURA (CBSLA/AP) — Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane!
It was actually a rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base Saturday evening carrying a top secret payload. The spy satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office launched just before 11 p.m. Seconds after the scheduled launch — the ship’s main engine and four rocket boosters — were off with a roar.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket is carrying a classified NROL-42 satellite.
Rocket scientist Olympia LePoint said the ship reached the speed of sound in 35 seconds.
“We’re gonna see dark, we’re gonna see light, all different types of colors because we have different rockets that is going to lift that high payload weight into space,” said LePoint prior to the launch.
Though classified, LePoint said we can still tell a lot about the mission because they are using the Atlas Five. The Atlas 5 rocket is one of the strongest, capable of carrying 18,000 pounds.
“It is a spy satellite that’s being delivered up into our upper atmosphere” LePoint said. “It’s our eyes and ears towards space.”
It’s rumored the ship’s cargo is a highly-specialized orbital camera that can give us larger-than-ever views of the Northern hemisphere. That could come in more than handy given our current political climate.
“Allow us to be able to see if anything is being launched that is supposed to be launched or isn’t supposed to be launched,” LePoint said.
NRO satellites gather intelligence information for U.S. national security and an array of other purposes including assessing impacts of natural disasters. U.S. officials have not revealed what the spacecraft will be doing or what its orbit will be.
United Launch Alliance is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)