A Delta IV Heavy rocket and its top-secret cargo at Vandenberg Air Force Base now have been united ahead of their targeted departure date.
United Launch Alliance recently announced that the 233-foot-tall rocket will aim for an afternoon blastoff on April 26.
The Delta IV Heavy already sits at Space Launch Complex-6, once planned to be the home of the West Coast space shuttle program, on South Base.
Crews recently placed the payload, only identified as key for national security, atop the booster as one more vital step to ready for launch.
Since the rocket will carry spacecraft for the National Reconnaissance Office, the targeted launch time and actual launch window for the rocket have not been released for the mission dubbed NROL-82.
However, on Monday NRO officials said the launch opportunity would stretch from 12:39 p.m. to 3:57 p.m. The planned launch time will be released closer to the liftoff date.
While some launch sites can be seen from off-base viewing sites, SLC-6 sits in a valley as one of the most southern launch facilities at Vandenberg.
Spectators must await the rocket’s rise above the hills to see the flight — as long as Mother Nature keeps the marine layer away.
Before mating the payload to the rocket, the Delta IV Heavy team recently conducted a “wet dress rehearsal” in which they performed a mock countdown, including key pre-launch milestones such as fueling the rocket, which remained on the pad after reaching zero.
The practice session allowed the team to test various systems to spot any potential issues that could cause delays on launch day.
For the exercise, the rocket’s cargo and its 63-foot-long nosecone or payload fairing had not been attached yet as a precaution.
This will be ULA’s 13th Delta IV Heavy launch and the fourth from Vandenberg.
The West Coast’s previous Delta IV Heavy rocket blasted off in January 2019, also to carry an NRO payload into space.
ULA will provide a countdown status blog and live webcast, links available here, on launch day.
— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.