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030117 Atlas V launch 02.jpg (copy)

In this March 1, 2017, file photo, birds fly as an Atlas V rocket carrying a classified payload lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The base is scheduled to host another Atlas V launch Thursday night.

An Atlas V rocket carrying a secret payload for the National Reconnaissance Office is slated to blast off late Thursday night from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The rocket, built by United Launch Alliance, is scheduled to take off from VAFB’s Space Launch Complex-3 during a window scheduled to open at 10:38 p.m.

Col. Gregory Wood, the 30th Space Wing vice commander, will serve as the launch decision authority.

“This launch is the culmination of many months of work by United Launch Alliance, the National Reconnaissance Office and the 30th Space Wing,” Wood said. “All of Team Vandenberg is dedicated to mission success and proud to play a part in delivering these capabilities to our nation.”

The mission, dubbed NROL-42, will be ULA’s sixth this year and 121st overall, according to the company. It will also mark the 73rd Atlas V launch since its inaugural liftoff Aug. 21, 2002.

The Air Force’s 4th Space Launch Squadron is in charge of integrated launch operations with a focus on mission assurance, according to 30th Space Wing public affairs.

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“This launch is a prime example of teamwork by multiple organizations that have worked around the clock to assure mission safety and security," said Lt. Col. Kenneth Decker, 4th Space Launch Squadron commander. "Given the dedication of the men and women (who) have worked to ensure readiness of the launch vehicle and payload, we're on track for a successful launch."

Anyone wishing to view the launch live can do so by visiting ULA's website, at, for a broadcast set to begin at 10:18 p.m. Thursday.

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.