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Fires Will Keep Atlas V Rocket, WorldView-4 Craft At Vandenberg AFB Longer

The tentative Monday depature is canceled, with next launch attempt planned for early October due to wildland fires burning on the military base

Smoke from the Canyon Fire rises above Vandenberg Air Force base on Sept. 18, seen with the Space Launch Complex-3, which houses the Atlas V rocket.
Smoke from the Canyon Fire rises above Vandenberg Air Force base on Sept. 18, seen with the Space Launch Complex-3, which houses the Atlas V rocket.  (Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

An Atlas V rocket and its WorldView-4 satellite will hang around a bit longer due to the wildland fires burning at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The launch tentatively planned for Monday won’t depart until early October, United Launch Alliance officials said. 

ULA representatives are working with the Western Range staff at Vandenberg and DigitalGlobe to identify a new launch date. 

“The launch vehicle and spacecraft are secure and the team is continuing to monitor the fire and mitigate risk to the vehicle and spacecraft,” ULA officials said.

Liftoff on Sept. 16 was first foiled by a faulty valve that caused “ice balls” to form on umbilical equipment at Space Launch Complex-3. 

Technicians replaced the valve and the team aimed for a Sept. 18 blastoff. 

However, a fire sparked at 5:20 p.m. Saturday on South Base and led to another scrub.

The blaze, dubbed the Canyon Fire, has charred more than 12,000 acres but was 90-percent contained as Thursday. Another fire started Thursday on North Base, prompting some evacuations. 

All ULA employees are safe and accounted for, officials said, adding that ULA facilities have not been damaged by the fire.

The rocket's primary passenger, a commercial Earth-imaging satellite, will continue adding to the firm’s library used by government, private and international customers once it reaches orbit.

Since the fire started, DigitalGlobe has been using sibling satellites, including WorldView-3 which launched from the site two years ago, to capture images of South Base.

Those images have been provided to response teams on the ground, and reveal the fire came 2.5 kilometers, or 1.5 miles, from the launch pad, officials said.

The WorldView-3 satellite boasts a short-wave infrared sensor which is able to pierce through smoke and see where fires are burning on the ground. 

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.

DigitalGlobe has been using satellites to capture images of the Canyon Fire since it started, including the WorldView-3 which launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base two years ago. Click to view larger
DigitalGlobe has been using satellites to capture images of the Canyon Fire since it started, including the WorldView-3 which launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base two years ago.  (DigitalGlobe photo)
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