A powerful Atlas 5 rocket is being readied for launch Tuesday afternoon to place a clandestine payload into space, possibly headed for geosynchronous orbit 22,300 miles above the Earth.
The United Launch Alliance-operated vehicle is capable of delivering 7,800 pounds directly into this type of orbit used by eavesdropping intelligence spacecraft.
Liftoff from Complex 41 at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is planned for 2:48 p.m. EDT Tuesday (1848 GMT). The day's launch period extends to 3:35 p.m. EDT. There is a 40 percent chance of acceptable weather due to cloud cover. The launch is known simply as NROL-67, a classified satellite-delivery flight for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office. The NRO is the secretive government agency that controls the country's spy satellites.