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Mystery 'missile' launch near L.A. no threat to national security, government officials say [Updated]

November 9, 2010 |  9:49 am

Military and aviation officials said Tuesday they don't know who may have launched a mysterious object spotted in the sky late Monday off the Southern California coast, but noted that whatever the projectile was, it did not pose a threat to national security.

A KCBS news helicopter spotted what appeared to be a missile traveling through the sky northwest of Catalina Island, about 35 miles west of Los Angeles.

Video posted online by the television station showed a luminous point hurtling through the sky followed by a long contrail.

Officials with the Defense Department, the Navy and the Air Force said they did not have any details on the object or its launch site. Pentagon officials said that initial indications were that the military was not involved.

"We are aware of the unexplained contrail reported off the coast of Southern California yesterday evening," according to a statement Tuesday from the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the U.S. Northern Command, which operates the U.S. and Canadian missile warning system. "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 indication of any threat to our nation and we will provide more information as it becomes available," the statement said.

The Federal Aviation Administration didn't approve any commercial space launches in the area Monday, spokesman Ian Gregor said Tuesday.

"We're looking into this," he said.

[Updated at 9:55 a.m.: Naval Base Ventura County spokeswoman Teri Reid said Tuesday that the contrail seen off the Southern California coast on Monday did not originate at Naval Air Station Point Mugu.

"It didn't happen here," she said. "There was no firing on the range yesterday."

Nor did it come from Vandenberg Air Force Base, officials there said, adding that the facility's last launch was to put a satellite into orbit on Friday.]

-- Tony Barboza