US test-launches intercontinental missile from Vandenberg AFB

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The U.S. Air Force has launched an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile from a California base, a month after the test flight was postponed because of tensions with North Korea.
    
Vandenberg Air Force Base says the Minuteman 3 lifted off at 6:27 a.m. PDT Wednesday. It later splashed down thousands of miles away in the Pacific.
    
It's the first Minuteman test-launch of the year. Several Minutemans are launched each year at from Vandenberg to determine the weapon system's accuracy and reliability.

The original mid-April flight was postponed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel amid concerns that it might be misinterpreted during a time of heightened tension with North Korea.

The launch was rescheduled for Tuesday morning but was pushed back a day due to a problem with range safety instruments.

The U.S. has 450 nuclear-armed Minuteman 3 missiles ready for combat use, if directed by the president. They are in underground silos in five states.

With contributions by Ed Joyce

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