Atlas V rocket with secret spy satellite blasts off from Cape Canaveral

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Watch as an Atlas V rocket blasts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station early Sunday. (AP/John Raoux)

An Atlas V rocket lifted off just before dawn Sunday from Cape Canaveral, carrying a secret U.S. spy satellite after four previously attempted launches.

The rocket lit up the sky as it blasted off, its rocket boosters sending plumes of cloud-like smoke off the launch pad as it climbed in altitude.

This was the last mission of the year for United Launch Alliance, which went silent after the rocket's departure to preserve the secrecy of the National Reconnaissance Office flight.

The mission labeled as NROL-52 was speculated to be sending new advances in satellite technology into orbit.

The satellite was expected to join the Space Data System to relay intelligence collected by imaging craft orbiting lower over the Earth.

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