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Originally posted by johnlear
Craig Covault, senior editor of the trade magazine Aviation Week and Space Technology, said the clandestine cargo was a spacecraft that relays images and other data to the ground from other NRO satellites.
By my estimate, over the past 30 years, NRO must have launched enough image relaying satellites to sink the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan.
No, something else is going on and I feel that the Atlas V launch so quickly after Atlantis' cancellation means it probably has astronauts on board headed for either the ISS or one of the secret space stations or platforms.
There are many references to the fact that Atlas V can be used for astronaut launches.
Documentation recently obtained by NASASpaceFlight provides additional details covering Atlas V orbital and trajectory considerations for safe launch abort contingencies for manned flights.
NASA has probably been using rockets other than the Shuttle to place astronauts and cargo on station at the secret satellites in orbit for many years.
This particular Atlas V launch done in such a hurry obviously means while Atlantis was going to take Columbus up for attachment to the ISS there were other vital deliveries to the ISS and other space platforms that couldn't wait until the Shuttle gets back to flight status.
That it was able to get the Atlas V launched in such a hurry makes it obvious that the Atlas V was always in place and prepared for contingincies.
We may see other 'unscheduled launches' taking place from other launch facilities before Atlantis is ready to go.
As to exactly what vital cargo might be on the Atlas V other than astronauts I see food for the personnel and fuel for the other space vehicles already up there.
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) — A rocket carrying a top-secret payload blasted off Tuesday from the California coast.
The Delta IV rocket lifted off at 4:12 p.m. from the Vandenberg Air Force Base, about 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
"We've just seen the successful liftoff" of the rocket, launch commentator Don Spencer said in a webcast.
Since the launch involved a classified cargo for the National Reconnaissance Office, no details were immediately available about whether it was boosted to its intended orbit.
The reconnaissance office, which oversees the nation's constellation of spy satellites, has kept mum about the purpose of the mission and directed United Launch Alliance to cut off the live broadcast three minutes after liftoff..