An Orbital ATK rocket blasted through a mostly overcast sky over the Lompoc Valley on Tuesday and quickly disappeared into heavy cloud cover.
Still, the rocket provided a startling, albeit brief, thunder ahead of many of the area’s Halloween festivities.
The Minotaur-C rocket blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base just after 2:37 p.m. It carried 10 satellites into orbit for Planet Labs, an Earth imaging company based in San Francisco.
The rumbling from the rocket could be heard long after it was unable to be seen from the ground. Spectators lined up along East Ocean Avenue, among other locations around the Lompoc Valley, to watch the rocket lift off from the northern portion of VAFB.
Wesley Rasmussen, who said he works for a firm that was contracted to provide security ahead of the launch, was among the viewers posted near their vehicles on Ocean Avenue.
“I’ve been there close up, so I wanted to come out and watch it when it finally went up today," Rasmussen said.
“It was kind of less spectacular than I was hoping, but I’m glad it went up,” he added, referring to the quick cloud-caused disappearance. “I’m glad there were no problems with it, because those guys over there, they really fuss over it. … They’ve been fussing over it like it was a newborn baby for the past week or so.”
The primary purpose of Tuesday’s mission was for Planet Labs to send six SkySats and four of its Dove spacecrafts into orbit. The satellites are intended to increase the company's expansive constellation currently in space, and provide high-resolution images for a wide range of uses by commercial and governmental clients.
Less than 30 minutes after the launch, Orbital tweeted that it had expected deployment of all 10 satellites. It said that full confirmation would occur about 50 to 70 minutes later.
Col. Greg Wood, the 30th Space Wing vice commander, was the space launch authority.
"This launch was an incredible achievement for Team Vandenberg, Orbital ATK, and our other launch partners," Wood said. "This Minotaur-C launch marked the first at Vandenberg in six years and I am very proud of the teamwork that led to this successful launch. The hard work and dedication of everyone involved continues to ensure our nation's access to space."
Another of the spectators who watched from East Ocean Avenue was Michael Lofgrin. He was joined by his wife and Missy, the couple's Yorkshire terrier.
"Missy had nothing to do, so we had a talk with her earlier this morning and she decided she wanted to come to the launch," he said.
Lofgrin added that he has a friend who works on base and that he and his wife are new to the area and have enjoyed witnessing the launches.
He said he wasn't too concerned about the clouds that limited everyone's view.
"The weather was cool like we like it, so we figured we'd come down and check it out," he said.
The launch had previously been planned for Oct. 17, but it was pushed back at the request of Orbital, which released a statement in early October that said the company wanted more time for testing.