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Local News

Atlas Rocket, Satellite Set for Wednesday Liftoff From Vandenberg

An Atlas 5 rocket and its cargo — a commercial remote-sensing satellite — are both ready for blastoff Wednesday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, according to mission managers.

Liftoff of the 19-story-tall rocket from Space Launch Complex-3 on South Base is planned for approximately 11:30 a.m., according to rocket manufacturer United Launch Alliance.

The team was wrestling with a minor water leak at the launch pad Tuesday, but didn’t expect it would interfere with launch plans, said Vernon Thorp, ULA’s program manager for NASA and commercial missions.

“Spacecraft’s looking great, launch vehicle’s looking great …,” he said. “Both vehicles are in great shape, and we’re hoping the weather cooperates tomorrow and we all get to see a liftoff.”

Launch weather forecasters are calling for a 40-percent likelihood conditions will delay their liftoff plans, with the primary concern centering on clouds below 2,000 feet, which is a range-safety constraint. 

Range-safety rules are put in place to ensure the rocket travels safely on its flight path.

The Atlas 5 rocket facility is visible looking toward South Base, south of Ocean Avenue.

Several spots around the Lompoc Valley also offer views of the launch site, assuming the marine layer remains away. Those sites include the peak of Harris Grade Road and the intersection of Moonglow and Stardust roads. 

This mission uses the smallest version of the rocket from the Atlas 5 family.

Because it doesn’t sport any solid rocket motors and only has the Common Booster Core as its main engine, spectators shouldn’t expect to see a contrail that typically is associated with rocket launches and missile tests from Vandenberg. However, the familiar rumble of the liftoff will accompany the departure.

The Atlas will carry the WorldView-3 satellite, touted as the most advanced commercial remote-sensing spacecraft, into orbit for DigitalGlobe.

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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