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Atlas V Rocket Set for Launch from Vandenberg AFB on Thursday

The rocket will be carrying a top-secret payload for the National Reconnaissance Office

Vandenberg Air Force Base is gearing up for the launch of an Atlas rocket that will lift a top-secret payload into space later this week.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying a National Reconnaissance Office payload is scheduled to blast off Thursday, with a launch window opening at 11:13 p.m., according to a Vandenbarg statement issued Monday.

Another rocket, the Delta IV, was launched in August and also carried a secret payload for the National Reconnaissance Office. 

The latest rocket will take off from Space Launch Complex-3 on base, and Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander, will be the launch-decision authority, the statement said.

The team has successfully made it through the many obstacles to get to the launch preparations, and with the last Minuteman III test launch postponed due to the shutdown, "we are excited to come back from Thanksgiving break and showcase our unique mission," Balts said.

The Fourth Space Launch Squadron is in charge of mission assurance and safety for Thursday's launch operation.

"A launch like this takes teamwork and dedication," said Lt. Col. James Bodnar, Fourth SLS commander. "Our mission assurance technicians and engineers have worked hand in hand with United Launch Alliance going over critical procedures and tasks to engineers have worked hand in hand with United Launch Alliance going over critical procedures and tasks to ensure this week's launch is a safe and successful one."

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper 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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