Barely visible in the dense fog at Vandenberg Air Force Base, a 19-story rocket roared to life and boosted a top-secret satellite into orbit.
Little is known about the spacecraft except that it belongs to the National Reconnaissance Office. The secretive federal agency is in charge of designing, building, launching and maintaining the nation's spy satellites.
At 2:39 p.m. PDT, Thursday, the satellite was lifted into space atop United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket.
The mission had been delayed six weeks because of a nagging glitch with equipment on the base northwest of Santa Barbara. But the problem was fixed, and despite the foggy weather all was "go" for launch.
The launch was shown on United Launch Alliance's website, but it was cut off more than a minute after liftoff for security reasons. The rocket maker didn't confirm by press time whether the launch was a complete success.