An Orbital Sciences Minotaur I with a NRO payload took off successfully this morning from Vandenberg AFB: Minotaur Launch Report | Classified satellite climbs to space on Minotaur rocket – Spaceflight Now.
Anthony Galván sent me the image below that he made of the launch. (Check out more of his images of Vandenberg launches over the years at www.dosgatos.com/au/vafb.htm.) He added these notes:
> A Minotaur 1 rocket carrying a classified demonstration payload for the National Reconnaissance Office lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base this morning, Sunday, at 4:26 am PST. The launch was initially scheduled for 4:26 am PST on Saturday morning but technical problems caused the launch to be delayed until today.
The rocket uses decommissioned first and second stages from the Minuteman 2 rocket for the main boosters and the solid-propellant rocket motors from a Pegasus XL rocket for the third and fourth stages. This custom configuration is ideal for launching small satellite payloads and has been used in 30 successful launches.
The Minotaur 1 was first used in 2000 and can be launched from four other commercial space ports. The other space ports, in addition to Vandenberg Air Force Base, California include Cape Canaveral, Florida, Wallops Island, Virginia and Kodiak Island, Alaska.
This view shows the rocket lifting off from Space Complex-6 at Vandenberg and heading south for a polar orbit. The bright spot in the rocket’s path is the first stage separation.