A Delta IV rocket carrying a U.S. spy satellite provided a premature wake-up call for much of the Lompoc Valley after launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base early Wednesday morning.
The rocket, built by United Launch Alliance, carried a secret payload for the National Reconnaissance Office. It blasted off from VAFB’s Space Launch Complex-6 at 3:40 a.m.
The powerful blast of the rocket's boosters could be heard — and felt — throughout the Valley and beyond.
“This was an incredibly important launch for the 30th Space Wing and our mission partners,” said Col. J. Christopher Moss, the 30th Space Wing commander and launch decision authority.
“The entire team, which included the 30th Space Wing, the 4th Space Launch Squadron, the National Reconnaissance Office, United Launch Alliance and numerous other agencies, worked hand-in-hand to ensure this launch was safe and successful.
“It was a tremendous effort by all involved.”
The satellite was launched aboard a Delta IV Medium configuration through the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program, which was established by the U.S. Air Force to provide assured access to space for Department of Defense and other government payloads.
Wednesday’s launch was the third this year from VAFB. The other two involved an ocean-monitoring satellite that will be used by NASA, among other agencies, and an interceptor test of a missile.
The base plans to host 11 launches in 2016, even as it shuts down launch operations for six months this year to relocate to a new facility.
Vandenberg officials have said there likely will be two more launches this month, although the exact dates of those have not been revealed.
Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.
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