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Wednesday, January 16 , 2019, 9:32 am | Mostly Cloudy 57º


WorldView-4 Satellite Sits Atop Atlas 5 Rocket For Launch From Vandenberg AFB

While United Launch Alliance mission remains on track, SpaceX confirms return-to-flight won't happen before November

Built by Lockheed Martin, DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-4 satellite is enclosed earlier this month in the 4-meter fairing that was placed atop an Atlas 5 rocket in preparation for launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Friday morning. Click to view larger
Built by Lockheed Martin, DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-4 satellite is enclosed earlier this month in the 4-meter fairing that was placed atop an Atlas 5 rocket in preparation for launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Friday morning. (Lockheed Martin/United Launch Alliance photo)

An Earth-imaging satellite boasting a new high-resolution camera to snap detailed pictures from space sits atop an Atlas 5 rocket awaiting blastoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Friday morning.

The window for the 189-foot-tall rocket’s departure from Space Launch Complex-3 East on South Base opens at 11:30 a.m. and closes at 11:44 a.m.

The United Launch Alliance-built rocket will carry the WorldView-4 satellite into space, more than doubling the capacity of the DigitalGlobe fleet.

WorldView-4, built by Lockheed Martin for DigitalGlobe, will capture detailed images for commercial, government and international customers.

Earlier this month, crews at Vandenberg tucked the 5,700-pound-class satellite into the rocket’s nose cone prior to the trip to the launch pad, where it was placed atop the Atlas.

"Encapsulation is the last time people will ever lay eyes on this satellite before it launches to space," said Steve Skladanek, president of Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services. "Our Atlas rocket is ready to provide WorldView-4 a smooth ride and precise delivery into orbit.”

WorldView-4 helps the company expand a 16-year library of time-lapse, high-resolution imagery. 

While in space, WorldView-4 will orbit Earth every 90 minutes, traveling 17,000 mph and capturing as much as 262,550 square miles of the Earth's surface daily or 18 terabytes – the equivalent of the land area of Texas.

WorldView-4's sibling, WorldView-3, also hitched a ride aboard an Atlas rocket to reach orbit in 2014. 

Vandenberg officials said community members can view the launch from the Hawk’s Nest, the former mobile home park site on Highway 1, a half mile south of Vandenberg’s main gate. 

Other popular viewing spots for South Base launches include the peak of Harris Grade Road, near the intersection of Moonglow and Stardust roads, and on Ocean Avenue west of Lompoc.

The Atlas 5 launch facility is visible on the horizon looking south of Ocean Avenue to the white gantry. 

"The combined 30th Space Wing and United Launch Alliance team has spent months preparing to ensure this launch is both safe and successful. We have a very strong partnership with ULA, and we're proud to have teamed with them on this fantastic mission," said Col. Chris Moss, 30th Space Wing commander and launch decision authority.

For safety reasons, Jalama Beach County Park campers and visitor will be evacuated from 8:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Friday. 

Surf and Ocean beaches also are expected to be closed due to the launch.

The Atlas 5 blastoff will mark the second launch from Vandenberg this month, following a Minuteman 3 missile test on Labor Day.

Meanwhile, another rocket launch once planned for September will not occur this month.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for Space Exploration Technologies confirmed that the next Falcon rocket launch likely won’t occur until November, but the company has not decided whether that return-to-flight mission will be from Vandenberg or Florida.

SpaceX was rocked by a catastrophic explosion Sept. 1 while the rocket sat on the launch in pad in preparation for a static fire test of its engine at Cape Canaveral Air Station, Florida.

The investigation into the mishap continues.

“Still working on the Falcon fireball investigation. Turning out to be the most difficult and complex failure we have ever had in 14 years,” company founder Elon Musk said on Twitter Sept. 9.

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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