Sunday, July 22 , 2018, 3:34 am | Fair 66º


Local News

Spanish Satellite Set To Launch From Vandenberg Air Force Base

High-resolution radar-imaging mission plans early Saturday departure on Falcon 9 rocket

A Spanish radar-imaging satellite awaits its ride into orbit aboard a Falcon 9 rocket set to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base early Saturday. Click to view larger
A Spanish radar-imaging satellite awaits its ride into orbit aboard a Falcon 9 rocket set to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base early Saturday. (Airbus courtesy photo)

A Spanish radar-imaging satellite will travel to space aboard a Falcon 9 rocket set for launch early Saturday morning from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Liftoff of the rocket built by Space Exploration Technologies is planned for 6:17 a.m. from Space Launch Complex-4 on South Base. The launch pad is visible when looking south of Ocean Avenue.

“The 30th Space Wing is ready to support the first West Coast SpaceX launch of 2018,” said Col. Greg Wood, 30th Space Wing vice commander and the person who will give a final permission for the launch to occur.

“Each launch marks the culmination of hard work and dedication of Team V,” Wood added. “We are excited to support this mission as we continue to provide safe, secure access to polar orbit.”

The SpaceX rocket will lift the PAZ satellite for Hisdesat of Madrid, Spain. Hisdesat is the Spanish operator of governmental satellites

PAZ, with Europe's Airbus as its prime contractor, carries a radar-imaging payload to collect views of Earth for government and commercial customers, along with ship tracking and weather sensors. 

In addition to the primary payload, multiple smaller secondary satellites also will hitch a ride aboard the Falcon 9 rocket.

Late last year, the Earth-observation satellite began its trip toward to space by taking an international flight from Spain to California while riding inside a special container designed to keep the craft safe. 

For the trek, a team of Airbus space technician and engineers traveled to Vandenberg to receive the satellite and the equipment upon arrival

The PAZ satellite sits in Spain last year prior to being shipped to Vandenberg Air Force Base for launch aboard a Falcon rocket. Click to view larger
The PAZ satellite sits in Spain last year prior to being shipped to Vandenberg Air Force Base for launch aboard a Falcon rocket. (Airbus courtesy photo)

In addition to the satellite, the team transported the electrical and mechanical ground support equipment plus all the testing and conditioning devices needed to prepare the satellite for the final leg of its journey to space.

Since completion of PAZ in 2015, Airbus has maintained the satellite in its clean rooms, in Madrid, ready to be launched at any time.

“We had to be ready at all times as we could have got a green light at any moment,” said José Guillamón, head of Airbus Space Systems in Spain. 

Falcon has had a backlog of missions after mishaps occurred on the East Coast, requiring investigations to find and fix flaws before launches could resume.

Designed to operate for more than five years, PAZ will orbit Earth 15 times per day, covering an area of over 186,411 square miles from an altitude of 322 miles.

While orbiting Earth, PAZ will cover the entire globe in 24 hours, serving both government and commercial needs.

Several spots around the Lompoc Valley offer clear views of the Falcon 9 launch pad. Those include the peak of Harris Grade Road, along West Highway 246 and near the intersection of Moonglow and Stardust roads in Vandenberg Village. 

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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