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Monday, December 17 , 2018, 4:47 am | Overcast 55º


Atlas 5 Rocket on Track For Friday Blastoff from Vandenberg AFB

WorldView-4 mission will place Earth-imaging satellite into orbit

Workers install an Atlas 5 rocket payload fairing, with the WorldView-4 satellite tucked inside, at Space Launch Complex-3 on south Vandenberg Air Force Base in anticipation of Friday’s launch. Click to view larger
Workers install an Atlas 5 rocket payload fairing, with the WorldView-4 satellite tucked inside, at Space Launch Complex-3 on south Vandenberg Air Force Base in anticipation of Friday’s launch. (United Launch Alliance photo)

An Atlas 5 rocket and its commercial cargo — a satellite about the size of a Ford F-150 pickup truck — have cleared the final reviews to start counting down toward blastoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base late Friday morning.

The launch is set to occur between 11:30 and 11:44 a.m. from Space Launch Complex-3 East on South Base. Launch times are established to ensure the satellite gets placed into its proper place in space.

The 189-foot-tall rocket manufactured by United Launch Alliance will carry the WorldView-4 satellite, which was built by Lockheed Martin Corp. for DigitalGlobe, continuing a 17-year partnership for commercial Earth-imaging spacecraft.

“I think what we’re all going to witness tomorrow is all of that great experience coming to bear with a perfect launch and absolutely stunning images being delivered hours later,” Carl Marchetto, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Commercial Space, said Thursday afternoon. 

A launc-readiness review occurred Thursday morning to assess whether any issues remained to interfere with the launch, but the mission received the green light to proceed.  

Weather isn’t expected to be a problem for the mission’s departure, with just a 20-percent likelihood conditions will force the team to try a different day.

The concern centers on launch visibility, officials said, adding that conditions improve to 10 percent if the mission slips to Saturday.t

The West Coast Atlas launch comes a week after a similar rocket launched a NASA mission from Florida.

The Vandenberg rocket will mark the 66th Atlas 5 liftoff, officials said. Most of those, or 32, involved the basic Atlas 5 rocket without any boosters strapped on to the lower portion.

“That really is the workhorse of our whole Atlas 5 family,” said Vern Thorp, ULA program manager.

Vandenberg officials said community members can view the launch from the Hawk’s Nest, the former mobile home park site on Highway 1, a half mile south of Vandenberg’s main gate. 

Other popular viewing spots for South Base launches include the summit of Harris Grade Road, near the intersection of Moonglow and Stardust roads, and on Ocean Avenue west of Lompoc.

The Atlas 5 launch facility is visible on the horizon looking south of Ocean Avenue to the white gantry. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully 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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