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World's most powerful rocket launches secret US satellite

The second classified mission for the National Reconnaissance Office to launch in nine days blasted off with the most powerful liquid hydrogen rocket engines ever built.  The spy agency plans a third launch in August. 

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A ULA Delta 4 Heavy Rocket launches the NROL-15 spy satellite July 29 from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

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A new spy satellite launched into orbit on a secret mission for the U.S. military Friday (June 29), roaring spaceward atop the world's most powerful rocket in use today.

The NROL-15 reconnaissance satellite blasted off from a launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 9:15 a.m. EDT (1315 GMT) to begin its classified mission for the National Reconnaissance Office. It rode a towering Delta 4-Heavy booster equipped with new RS-68A first stage engines — the most powerful liquid hydrogen rocket engines ever built, according to their manufactures.

Built by Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne, the new RS-68A engines are each capable of generating 702,000 pounds of thrust and are more efficient than a previous design, the rocket engine builders said, adding that the engine generates 36,000 more pounds of thrust than its predecessor. Three of the new rocket engines made their space launch debut in Friday's Delta 4-Heavy flight by rocket provider United Launch Alliance.

"And the RS-68A engines roar to life!" a ULA launch commentator said during liftoff. "The NRO systems continue to ensure vigilance from above." [Photos: Secret Spy Satellite NROL-15 Blasts Off]

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