The US satellite, called NROL-32, was lifted into space Sunday atop a giant Delta 4 rocket. The satellite's purpose is secret, but analysts suspect that it's a giant electronic ear.
A huge unmanned rocket carrying a secret new spy satellite for the United States roared into space Sunday (Nov. 21) to deliver what one reconnaissance official has touted as "the largest satellite in the world" into orbit.
The giant booster – a Delta 4 Heavy rocket – blasted off at 5:58 p.m. EST (2258 GMT) from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida carrying a classified payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office.
"This mission helps to ensure that vital NRO resources will continue to bolster our national defense," said Air Force Brig. Gen. Ed Wilson, commander 45th Space Wing, after the successful launch.
The satellite, called NROL-32, launched after a series of delays from technical glitches. The most recent glitch, a pair of faulty temperature sensors, thwarted a Nov. 19 launch attempt.
The exact purpose of the new spy satellite NROL-32 is secret, but is widely believed to be an eavesdropping satelllite.
"I believe the payload is the fifth in the series of what we call Mentor spacecraft, a.k.a. Advanced Orion, which gather signals intelligence from inclined geosynchronous orbits. They are among the largest satellites ever deployed," said Ted Molczan, a respected sky-watcher who keeps tabs on orbiting spacecraft.