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Delta IV Rocket Rings In New Launch Year At Vandenberg AFB

Top-secret satellite heads to space aboard United Launch Alliance booster

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket blasts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Friday afternoon.
The United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket blasts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Friday afternoon. (United Launch Alliance photo)

A Delta IV rocket soared away from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Friday afternoon, en route to delivering its clandestine cargo into space.

It was the West Coast’s first mission of 2018.

The United Launch Alliance rocket, at a height of 217 feet, blasted off at 2:11 p.m. from Space Launch Complex-6 near the southern edge of the base.

The space booster carried a top-secret spacecraft for the National Reconnaissance Office for a mission dubbed NROL-47. 

Due to the payload's classified nature, officials have remained mum about its purpose, cost and status. 

"This was an incredibly important launch for the 30th Space Wing and our mission partners," said Col. Greg Wood, 30th Space Wing vice commander who also gave the final permission for the launch to occur. "The entire team -- the 30th Space Wing, the National Reconnaissance Office, United Launch Alliance, and others -- worked hand-in-hand to ensure this launch was safe and successful. This was an outstanding effort by everyone."

The launch broadcast cut off after the rocket jettisoned the nosecone approximately 3 minutes after liftoff, preventing the public from knowing whether the payload separated from the rocket. However, ULA officials later called the mission successful. 

“It’s a national security payload and this mission will ensure the warfighters across the globe have the appropriate intel that they need to support operations,” said Maj. Allen Varghese, 4th Space Launch Squadron director of operations.

The NRO mission patch sports Latin words that translated into “Evil will never prevail,” a ULA representative said. 

This marked ULA's 27th launch for NRO including missions from Vandenberg and Florida.

“As the nation’s most trustworthy launch provider, today’s launch exemplifies ULA’s ongoing commitment to 100 percent mission success,” said Will Crawford, ULA’s NRO program manager.

The Delta IV rocket kicked off a year that will include at least one history-making launch from Vandenberg.

In May, an Atlas V rocket will carry NASA’s Insight craft to explore Mars, the first interplanetary mission from the base in nearly 60 years of missions. 

Several Iridium Next missions, aboard Space Exploration Technologies Falcon 9 rockets, from Vandenberg are planned in an effort to finishing building a second-generation constellation to provide global voice and data communication across the globe. 

Before Iridium missions resume, Falcon 9 will fly with Spain’s first radar satellite, called PAZ, during a launch once planned for Jan. 30 but reportedly will occur days later.

In the fall, a Delta IV Heavy rocket is set to launch a mission for the NRO. 

And in the fall, ULA’s final Delta II rocket is poised to fly from Vandenberg for another NASA mission, called ICESat 2.

Vandenberg's launch year also typically includes a few tests of unarmed intercontinental ballistic missiles to gather information about the system's accuracy and reliability. 

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.

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Friday afternoon. Click to view larger
The United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Friday afternoon. (United Launch Alliance photo)
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