Few details are surfacing about the mysterious missile launch seen Monday night (Nov. 8) from a point just off the southern coast of California, with aerospace and defense officials trying to find out exactly who launched it and why.
"We're looking into it," Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, told SPACE.com.
CBS affiliate KCBS caught the launch on camera and reported that military officials were "tight-lipped over the nature of the projectile."
In the video, a long plume of exhaust can be seen as the missile rockets into the evening sky. The launch occurred about 35 miles out at sea, west of Los Angeles and north of Catalina Island.
Gregor said, "We did not approve any commercial space launches in that area for Monday, and any additional information should come from NORAD. That's pretty much all I can say right now."
A spokesman with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency told SPACE.com in an e-mail that the incident was "not an MDA test or launch." [ Most Destructive Space Weapons Concepts ]
A Navy spokesperson told station KFMB that no Navy activity had been reported in the area Monday evening. NORAD the North American Aerospace Defense Command is a joint U.S.-Canadian organization charged with providing aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning for North America. NORAD is working in conjunction with U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) to investigate last night's launch.
The mission of USNORTHCOM is to provide military command and control of homeland defense efforts and support local, state, and federal authorities. It was established in October 2002.
NORAD provided SPACE.com with the following statement: "NORAD and USNORTHCOM are aware of the unexplained contrail reported off the coast of Southern California yesterday evening. At this time, we are unable to provide specific details, but we are working to determine the exact nature of this event. We can confirm that there is no threat to our nation, and from all indications this was not a launch by a foreign military. We will provide more information as it becomes available."
The U.S. military does, on occasion, conduct missile test launches and other weapons tests over the Pacific Ocean that are publicly announced.
On Oct. 29, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency conducted a drill with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force in a joint test of ballistic missile defense intercept capabilities. Photos and videos of that launch, as well as of several others conducted during the last few months, were released via the Missile Defense Agency's website.