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An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched at 4:36 a.m. during an operational test Dec. 17, 2013, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Minuteman III is a three-stage missile that can reach targets more than 6,000 miles away. As each stage burns out, it drops away and the next stage ignites. Col. Keith Balts, the 30th Space Wing commander, was the launch decision authority. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Yvonne Morales)

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