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Atlas V to Launch from Vandenberg on Thursday

Rocket will carry a meteorological satellite for the U.S. military

An Atlas V rocket carrying a top-secret National Reconnaissance Office payload leaves the launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in December. An Atlas carrying a military weather satellite is set to blast off from the base on Thursday.
An Atlas V rocket carrying a top-secret National Reconnaissance Office payload leaves the launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in December. An Atlas carrying a military weather satellite is set to blast off from the base on Thursday.  (Michael Peterson / U.S. Air Force photo)

By Gina Potthoff, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @ginapotthoff |

An Atlas V rocket is set to blast off from Vandenberg Air Force Base early Thursday, as the first launch of 2014 from the North County base.

The rocket carrying a 19th U.S. Air Force defense meteorological satellite program payload will depart from Space Launch Complex-3 during a launch window that opens at 7:46 a.m., according to Vandenberg officials.

Weather at take-off time is expected to be “very favorable,” with clear skies, light northerly winds, no low cloud cover and temperatures hovering around 52 degrees, according to weather flight predictions.

United Launch Alliance built and will fly the rocket, while Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman manufactured the accompanying satellite, which will continually send space weather data to military forces in support of critical operations.

“We are excited and ready to take on our first launch of 2014,” Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander, said in a statement. “I am proud of this launch team, which has been working tirelessly toward this launch for months.”

The 4th Space Launch Squadron will be in charge of mission assurance and launch safety.

The last time an Atlas V rocket launched from Vandenberg — that time carrying a top-secret payload — was in December.

The satellite program aboard the rocket operates in sun-synchronous orbits, sending down imagery, microwave and space weather data to provide the military with critical situational awareness information, while also helping weather forecasters predict regional and global weather patterns, such as severe thunderstorms, hurricanes and typhoons.

Because of the launch timing, some area school children might catch a glimpse.

About 80 eighth-graders from Tommie Kunst Junior High School in Santa Maria will watch the launch from a beach near the base.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.




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