An Atlas V rocket pierced through the night sky over the Lompoc Valley late Saturday night, carrying with it a secret payload for the National Reconnaissance Office.
The liftoff of the United Launch Alliance-built rocket occurred just after 10:50 p.m. from Vandenberg Air Force Base’s Space Launch Complex-3. The rocket, which had been delayed from its originally scheduled launch Thursday, rumbled skyward until only its flame-filled exhaust remained visible throughout the region.
"Team members of the 30th Space Wing, our partners at the National Reconnaissance Office and United Launch Alliance worked together to ensure the success of this critical mission," said Col. Greg Wood, 30th Space Wing vice commander and space launch commander. "This unified effort is what delivers the essential reconnaissance capability to the nation."
The 30th Space Wing at VAFB manages the safety and launch operations from the Western Range.
"We've worked diligently over the course of many months to conduct mission assurance for launch site operations and reduce technical risk," said Lt. Col. Kenneth Decker, 4th Space Launch Squadron commander. "We are very proud to be part of the team that contributed to the success of this mission."
The launch was part of the NROL-42 mission. It was delayed Thursday due to a “faulty battery on the booster,” according to ULA.
The Atlas V rocket stood about 196 feet tall, or about 20 stories, and weighed more than 1 million pounds fully fueled, according to ULA.
The launch was the fifth of a rocket from VAFB this year.