Rocket with secret payload launches from Calif.

Intelligence analysts think the rocket carried a radar imaging satellite capable of seeing at night and through bad weather. In recent years, the United States has worked to phase out its fleet of older, heavier radar reconnaissance satellites with smaller but equally capable ones, said Charles Vick, a space policy analyst with the Globalsecurity.org think tank.

Such radar satellites would be able to zero in on countries of interest and see details that typical Earth satellites can't, experts said.

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