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Atlas V Rocket Blasts Off From Vandenberg AFB

Space booster was carrying a secret payload for the National Reconnaissance Office

An Atlas V rocket roars off the launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base on Wednesday. The booster was carrying a secret payload for the National Reconnaissance Office.
An Atlas V rocket roars off the launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base on Wednesday. The booster was carrying a secret payload for the National Reconnaissance Office. (United Launch Alliance photo)

An Atlas V rocket sailed away from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Wednesday for a mission to lift its clandestine cargo into space while also honoring a fallen firefighter.

The United Launch Alliance booster, standing 190-feet-tall, blasted off at 9:49 a.m. from Space Launch Complex-3 on South Base.

The booster carried a top-secret spacecraft for the National Reconnaissance Office into space. 

"This successful launch is the result of outstanding teamwork between members of the 30th Space Wing and our partners at the National Reconnaissance Office and United Launch Alliance," said Col. Chris Moss, 30th Space Wing commander who also served as the launch decision authority for the mission. "The combined team delivered an important capability for the nation today.  It was an exceptional effort."

More than an hour after blastoff, officials declared the mission successful.

"A launch like this requires thousands of hours of activity and practice to execute successfully," said Lt. Col. Eric Zarybnisky, 4th Space Launch
Squadron commander. "Engineers and technicians from my squadron work with members of the United Launch Alliance to ensure a successful launch like this one."

The rocket also carried a small memorial to remember Ryan Osler, a member of the Ventura County Fire Department.

Osler died en route to the Canyon Fire last September. Along with his name and years he lived, the memorial noted “Friend, Father and Fallen Hero.”

“I am so impressed by the incredible teamwork between the NRO, U.S. Air Force our industry partners and the ULA team that resulted in today’s successful launch. The integrated mission team overcame many challenges, including delays associated with the Vandenberg Canyon Fire last year,” said Laura Maginnis, ULA vice president of government satellite launch. 

“Tragically, Ventura County firefighter Ryan Osler lost his life en route to assist in fighting the fire. We are honored to dedicate today’s mission to Ryan and his family,” Maginnis added. “Thank you to all of the men and women who worked to deliver this critical asset for our nation’s security.”

Dedications regularly occur during rocket launches, but typically remember someone from the aerospace industry. 

On its Facebook page, Osler's former colleagues said, "We are incredibly moved by this honor!"

The mission marked the 70th Atlas V launch since the booster’s inaugural mission in 2002 and the 117th successful launch since ULA formed in December 2006.

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.

An Atlas V rocket heads through clear skies toward space Wednesday after launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base Click to view larger
An Atlas V rocket heads through clear skies toward space Wednesday after launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base (United Launch Alliance photo)
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