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SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Poised to be Vandenberg Air Force Base’s 1st Launch of 2016

Scheduled for Jan. 17 blastoff, space booster set to carry ocean-monitoring satellite for international partnership

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket soars into the Florida sky Dec. 21. Another Falcon 9 is set to blast off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Jan. 17. Click to view larger
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket soars into the Florida sky Dec. 21. Another Falcon 9 is set to blast off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Jan. 17. (SpaceX photo)

An ocean-monitoring satellite moved closer to liftoff next week aboard a Falcon 9 rocket that will become Vandenberg Air Force Base’s first launch of 2016.

On Friday evening, mission managers completed the Flight Readiness Review, concluding “that work should proceed” toward the planned Jan. 17 launch, NASA official said.

A static fire of the Space Exploration Technologies Falcon 9 rocket at Space Launch Complex-4 on South Base is set for Monday.

For the test, SpaceX will fire up the first stage for a few seconds, essentially counting down to zero, starting the engine and not lifting off.

On Monday evening, SpaceX representatives announced on Twitter, "Full-duration static fire complete at our California pad. Preliminary data looks food in advance of Jason-3 launch." At least one driver in the Lompoc area reported seeing smoke from the test which occurred at approximately 5:40 p.m.

In another critical pre-launch task, workers Friday tucked the Jason-3 spacecraft into the rocket’s payload fairing in readiness for being placed atop the rocket.

Liftoff is planned for 10:42 a.m. Jan. 17, pending successful completion of the final chores and favorable weather.

“​Vandenberg is excited to welcome 2016 with this launch,” said Col. Shane Clark, 30th Space Wing vice commander and launch decision authority.

“Our mission is to provide unique capabilities for assured access to and from space for our nation. We have worked diligently with our mission partners at NASA and SpaceX to ensure a safe and successful launch.”

Jason-3 is an international mission led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) partnering with NASA, the French space agency and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites.

Once in space, Jason-3 will continue the ability to monitor and precisely measure global sea surface heights, monitor the intensification of tropical cyclones, and support seasonal and coastal forecasts, officials said.

In addition to the launch, SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk confirmed plans to attempt to land the first-stage on a barge platform in the Pacific Ocean.

"Aiming to launch this weekend and (hopefully) land on our droneship," Musk said on Twitter. "Ship landings needed for high velocity missions."

Similar landing attempts failed after Falcon rocket launches from Florida. However, the company has achieved a successful touch-down on land last month following another Florida lunch.

The Jason-3 mission was delayed last year, including due to contamination in the satellite and later by a Falcon rocket failure on the East Coast.

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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