Delta IV Heavy rocket sched­uled to launch from Van­den­berg Fri­day

The Tribune (SLO) - - Local - BY JANENE SCULLY

A be­he­moth Delta IV Heavy rocket con­tin­ues marching to­ward liftoff Fri­day night from Van­den­berg Air Force Base, but the launch team is keep­ing a close eye on the weather.

The United Launch Al­liance booster, which stands some 233 feet tall, will aim for de­par­ture at 8:19 p.m. from Space Launch Com­plex-6 on South Base.

Since the rocket will de­liver cargo for the Na­tional Re­con­nais­sance Of­fice — the mis­sion is dubbed NROL-71 — the ac­tual launch win­dow re­mains top se­cret, but is not ex­pected to ex­tend be­yond 9:38 p.m.

“We are proud to launch this crit­i­cal pay­load in sup­port of our na­tion’s na­tional se­cu­rity mis­sion,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice pres­i­dent of gov­ern­ment and com­mer­cial pro­grams. “As the na­tion’s pre­miere launch provider, the teams have worked dili­gently to en­sure con­tin­ued mis­sion suc­cess, de­liv­er­ing our cus­tomer’s pay­loads to the pre­cise or­bits re­quested.”

“Team V has put in a lot of hard work for this launch,” said Col. Bob Reeves, 30th Space Wing vice com­man­der. “We are ded­i­cated to mis­sion suc­cess and proud to work along­side United Launch Al­liance and the Na­tional Re­con­nais­sance Of­fice.”

But weather may not co­op­er­ate. Fore­casts have called for a 60-per­cent like­li­hood weather may in­ter­fere with blastoff plans, ULA rep­re­sen­ta­tives said.

If the launch slips 24 hours, con­di­tions im­prove slightly for Satur­day night, with a 40-per­cent like­li­hood of con­di­tions stop­ping the count­down be­fore liftoff.

On both days, the pri­mary con­cern cen­ters on ground winds ex­pected to ex­ceed lim­its, ac­cord­ing to ULA.

Delta IV Heavy use three com­mon booster cores strapped side by side to pro­vide more ca­pa­bil­ity for car­ry­ing the na­tion’s largest spy satel­lites into space.

Mem­bers of the 4th Space Launch Squadron fo­cus on mis­sion as­sur­ance while work­ing with em­ploy­ees of ULA and oth­ers.

“Every mis­sion is unique, and this Delta IV Heavy launch is a prime ex­am­ple of team­work with a laser fo­cus on mis­sion suc­cess,” said Lt. Col. Ken­neth Decker, 4th SLS com­man­der and Air Force launch di­rec­tor for the mis­sion. “Our mis­sion as­sur­ance tech­ni­cians and en­gi­neers have worked dili­gently with United Launch Al­liance and the other mis­sion part­ners to re­duce risk in or­der to as­sure mis­sion safety and se­cu­rity. The men and women of the 4 SLS are proud to con­trib­ute to this im­por­tant mis­sion.”

The booster will de­part from the launch pad built for the West Coast space shut­tle pro­gram, which was can­celed be­fore any blastoffs from that lo­ca­tion.

Un­like many of the other launch pads at Van­den­berg, SLC-6 is tucked into a coastal val­ley and not vis­i­ble from the nor­mal view­ing sites around the Lom­poc Val­ley. How­ever, spec­ta­tors are ex­pected to gather at the the peak of Har­ris Grade Road and other lo­ca­tions around Lom­poc to catch a glimpse of the rocket af­ter it rises above the hills.

Due to safety rea­sons, Jalama Beach County Park will have a manda­tory evac­u­a­tion from 2:30 to 9 p.m. Fri­day. All campers will be re­lo­cated to the end of Jalama Road.

Co­in­ci­den­tally, a Fri­day night rocket launch could come af­ter the Lom­poc Val­ley Chil­dren’s Christ­mas Sea­son Pa­rade trav­els south on H Street. The pro­ces­sion with ap­prox­i­mately 60 en­tries will start at 6 p.m. with the theme “Mir­a­cle on H Street.”

If the Delta IV Heavy de­parts, it will be the se­cond launch of the week from Van­den­berg, fol­low­ing Mon­day morn­ing’s Fal­con 9 blastoff with dozens of small satel­lites.

Noozhawk North County ed­i­tor Janene Scully can be reached at js­[email protected]

United Launch Al­liance

The Delta IV Heavy rocket’s pay­load fair­ing is lifted into place at Space Launch Com­plex-6 at Van­den­berg Air Force Base in prepa­ra­tion for launch.

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