Thursday, October 01, 2009

Wildfire Not Expected To Delay West Coast Launches

A raging wildfire that forced road closures and evacuations at Vandenberg Air Force Base on Wednesday is not expected to delay two planned United Launch Alliance rocket launches there this month, officials said today.

The wildfire started late Wednesday morning at Vandenberg Middle School and then jumped four lanes of Highway 1 and made its way toward the main base, according to a report in the Lompoc Record.

But Mike Rein, a spokesman for the launch services company, said the fire did not come close to Delta and Atlas launch pads at the base and that preparations for two upcoming satellite delivery missions remain on track.

"We are still on our normal timelines," Rein said.

A Delta II rocket is slated to blast off from Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg a week from today. The 125-foot rocket will carry a commercial Earth-imaging satellite into orbit. Rein said the rocket's payload fairing is to be installed today. The launch window next Thursday will stretch 2:38 p.m. EDT to 2:53 p.m. EDT.

An Atlas V rocket also is being readied to launch a military weather satellite from Space Launch Complex 3 East at Vandenberg on October 13. The launch window for that mission: 12:12 p.m. EDT to 12:32 p.m. EDT.

Timely launches are key to keeping on track for two mid-November rocket launches at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

A ULA Atlas V rocket is slated to launch a commercial communications satellite from Launch Complex 41 at the Cape at 12:48 a.m. Nov. 14.

A Delta IV rocket is scheduled to blast off from Launch Complex 37 with a military communications satellite at 7:45 p.m. Nov. 18.

ABOUT THE IMAGE: Firefighters worked Wednesday to extinguish a blaze that started at Vandenberg Middle School and forced road closures and evacuations at Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California. The wildfire is expected to be contained by this evening and is not expected to delay two upcoming United Launch Alliance satellite-delivery missions there. Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force/30th Space Wing.

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