Launch of rocket carrying U.S. spy agency payload called off seconds before liftoff

The launch of a massive rocket carrying out a mission for the U.S. agency responsible for spy satellites was called off just seconds ahead of liftoff on Saturday.

United Launch Alliance, a contractor for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), was expected to launch a Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying the NROL-71 mission from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Saturday evening.

The launch was initially delayed, then called off about 7.5 seconds before liftoff. The company said there was “an unexpected condition during terminal count.”

“The team is currently reviewing all data and will determine the path forward. A new launch date will be provided when available,” ULA said.

A previous launch attempt was aborted on Friday due to an issue with a communication link between the control centre and launch site.

The NRO is responsible for developing, launching and operating U.S. intelligence satellites. It described the NROL-71 as a “national security payload designed, built and operated by the NRO.”

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