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Atlas Rocket Launch from Vandenberg AFB Delayed Until at Least Aug. 14

Liftoff for spacecraft with top-secret payload postponed due to problems with 'range instrumentation'

The launch of an Atlas V rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base carrying a top-secret payload — originally planned for early Thursday — has been delayed until at least Aug. 14, according to launch officials.

Liftoff had been moved to 12:13 a.m. Saturday from Space Launch Complex 3 on the base, according to United Launch Alliance, which is overseeing the mission.

But in a Twitter message Thursday night, United Launch Alliance said the launch has now been delayed almost two weeks to allow crews to sort out technical problems not associated with the rocket.

A “range instrumentation issue” caused the launch to be scrubbed shortly before its planned liftoff at 12:44 a.m. Thursday, ULA officials said.

In addition to the spacecraft being sent into orbit for the National Reconnaissance Office, the Atlas will carry 11 smaller auxiliary payloads or “cubesats” into space, according to ULA.

These smaller payloads were developed by the Space and Missile Command, the Aerospace Corp., USC, the University of Colorado, Cal Poly, Morehead State University, UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Livermore National Lab, ULA said.

They will study space weather and communications, space environment, debris mitigation, maritime shipping container tracking and spaceflight safety and orbit refinement, according to ULA.

United Launch Alliance is a joint venture owned by Lockheed Martin and the Boeing Company to provide launch services for the U.S. government, NASA, the military and other organizations.

The Atlas V stands nearly 200 feet tall, and weighs more than 735,000 pounds, not including payload.

Its main engine, which is fueled by liquid oxygen and kerosene, can produce more than 860,000 pounds of thrust at liftoff, according to ULA. Solid rocket boosters are sometimes used to increase thrust at liftoff.

An upper-stage Centaur rocket — fueled by liquid oxygen/hydrogen — develops about 22,300 pounds of thrust, and houses the spacecraft’s navigation unit.

Click here for more information about the launch.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton 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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