January 21, 2011 / 12:36 AM / 9 years ago

Secret payload launched on largest West Coast rocket

A Delta IV Heavy Launch Vehicle launches from Space Launch Complex-6 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, January 20. REUTERS/Chris Ghormley/US Air Force

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The largest rocket ever launched from the U.S. West Coast blasted off on Thursday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, carrying a top secret satellite into orbit, military officials said.

The Delta IV Heavy rocket stood 23 stories tall, and its engines produced 2 million pounds of thrust, according to the 30th Space Wing of the U.S. Air Force.

Blasting off at 1:10 p.m. Pacific time from Space Launch Complex-6 at Vandenberg in California, the rocket carried a payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office, military officials said. The nature of the payload was secret.

But the Los Angeles Times cited analysts who said it was a spy satellite, capable of snapping pictures detailed enough to distinguish the model of a car hundreds of miles below.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Steve Gorman

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