Monday, September 20, 2010

ULA set to launch Atlas V from West Coast

Roughly 30 local United Launch Alliance employees are stationed on the West Coast for a spy satellite's planned late-night launch today atop an Atlas V rocket.

Blastoff of the classified National Reconnaissance Office payload from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California is scheduled for 11:29 p.m. EDT (8:29 p.m. local time).

As of Friday, the forecast held a 70 percent chance of favorable launch weather with a possibility of strong surface winds.

The launch will be the 23rd by an Atlas V and third from Vandenberg's Space Launch Complex-3E, which was modified to support the rocket before its first West Coast launch (above) in March 2008.

Click here to view a ULA Webcast of the launch set to start 20 minutes prior to T-0. Because the mission is classified, the broadcast will end five minutes after liftoff.

ULA has another NRO launch coming up from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Oct. 19, featuring a Delta IV Heavy. It's the last Cpae launch of the year for the Boeing Co.-Lockheed Martin Corp. joint venture.

IMAGE: On March 13, 2008, the first Atlas V rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California carrying a National Reconnaissance Office payload. Credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Joe Davila.

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