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Launch of Classified Satellite to Light Up California Coast Tonight

Liftoff of NRO-42 is scheduled for 10:38 pm PDT from Vandenberg AFB

ULA NROL-42 Mission Art. Image Credit: ULA

UPDATE 9/21/2017 5:26PM PT: A statement from ULA, “The ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the NROL-42 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office has been delayed. The delay allows the team time to replace a faulty battery on the Atlas V booster. The vehicle and spacecraft remain stable. Launch of the NROL-42 mission is scheduled for no earlier than Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017.”

United Launch Alliance (ULA) is all systems GO for a launch attempt tonight from Vandenberg AFB, CA with a classified surveillance satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), after a launch readiness review conducted yesterday cleared the mission to proceed.


Liftoff is scheduled for 10:38 p.m. PDT atop an Atlas-V ‘541’ rocket from Space Launch Complex-3, and should put on quite a show for spectators up and down the California coast since the rocket will employ four solid rocket boosters; in addition to the workhorse Atlas V’s powerful and proven reliable Russian RD-180 liquid engine.

“This launch is the culmination of many months of work byULA, the NRO and the 30th Space Wing,” said Col. Gregory Wood, 30th Space Wing vice commander, who will be the launch decision authority. “All of Team Vandenberg is dedicated to mission success and proud to play a part in delivering these capabilities to our nation.”

Weather forecasts from USAF meteorologists are 60% favorable for a liftoff tonight, with the main concerns being launch visibility and ground winds.

Tune in to the live broadcast starting at 10:18 p.m. PDT

File photo of a ULA Atlas-V launching from Florida in its “541” configuration, which flew for the first time in 2011 with NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover. Photo Credit: Mike Killian

“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 have worked to ensure readiness of the launch vehicle and payload, we’re on track for a successful launch.”

The launch will mark ULA’s sixth of 2017 and 121st overall, and the 25th mission ULA will have flown for the NRO.
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Written by Mike Killian

Mike Killian

Killian is an aerospace photographer and writer, with a primary focus on spaceflight and military and civilian aviation. Over the years his assignments have brought him onboard NASA's space shuttles, in clean rooms with spacecraft destined for other worlds, front row for launches of historic missions and on numerous civilian and military flight assignments.

When not working the California-native enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, storm chasing, producing time-lapses and shooting landscape and night sky imagery, as well as watching planes of course.

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