Atlas 5 rocket launch on track for today

2012-09-13T00:40:00Z Atlas 5 rocket launch on track for todayBy Janene Scully/Associate Editor/ Santa Maria Times

After a six-week delay, an Atlas 5 rocket is back on track for liftoff this afternoon from south Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Blastoff of the United Launch Alliance rocket is planned for 2:39 p.m. from Space Launch Complex-3, with the team reportedly having about 30 minutes to get the rocket off the ground or postpone the countdown.

Weather isn’t expected to cause any concerns, with forecasters calling for zero likelihood conditions will interfere with the launch.

Today also appears suitable for spectators hoping to see the blastoff as “the marine layer will begin to burn off throughout the morning, gradually improving visibility toward T-0, with just a few low-level stratus clouds lingering for launch,” according to the launch weather forecast.

Mission managers gathered Wednesday for the launch readiness review and gave the green light to proceed with the countdown today.

The Atlas 5 rocket will carry National Reconnaissance Office spacecraft along with student-built satellites.

The mission first tried for blastoff Aug. 2, when Western Range equipment troubles halted the countdown.

But the delay benefits would-be spectators. Instead of a middle-of-the-night departure, liftoff is now planned for mid-afternoon.

Launch times are based upon where a satellite needs to be placed in space. For this mission, the launch time becomes approximately 14 minutes earlier for each day it’s delayed.

For safety reasons related to the launch, Jalama Beach County Park will be evacuated from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. today. 

Parking lots near Surf and Ocean beaches also are expected to be closed for the launch.

While Vandenberg access is restricted to only those authorized, several spots around the Lompoc area offer good views of the launch pad, which is visible while looking toward South Base.

The peak of Harris Grade Road also attracts spectators hoping to see launches.

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