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Atlas V Rocket Launches From California Air Base On Top Secret Mission (Video)

Atlas V Launch From Vandenberg AFB

A 19-story tall rocket called the Atlas V launched from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base late Thursday night, carrying a top secret payload for the U.S. government's National Reconnaissance Office.

The mystery payload is the size of a loaf of bread, and weighs just 11 pounds, according to American Forces Press Service.

Air Force Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander, was the launch decision authority. He was quoted in a news release announcing the launch as saying...

"This was our eleventh launch for 2013 and I couldn't be more proud of this team of professionals. This new capability represents our commitment to enhanced competitive launch services in support of national defense."

U.S. Southern Command science and technology adviser, Juan Hurtado, explained to American Forces Press Service the significance of the launch:

"This is a major milestone. This first space project for U.S. Southern Command represents a big step ahead. I feel like we are about ready to offer a transformational capability to support troops in the field, not just within Southern Command, but throughout the Department of Defense."

Check out the cool video of the launch at the top of this post!