This month could end with a flurry of launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The first of two Minuteman 3 missile tests planned within four days is scheduled for early Sunday morning from North Base.
Blastoff is planned for 3:01 a.m., but the team has until 9:01 a.m. for the test to take place. Delays can occur due to technical troubles at Vandenberg or downrange.
Upon liftoff, the military will track the weapon as it travels some 4,200 miles to a predetermined target in the Kwajalein Atoll in the central Pacific Ocean.
Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander, is the launch decision authority and noted the busy year for the Western Range. The range is made up sensors and other equipment to ensure just-launched rockets and missiles remain on their flight paths.
“Whether we are supporting a mid-morning launch of a Delta 4 or an early morning Minuteman 3 launch, public safety is always our number one priority,” Balts said.
Minuteman 3 missile tests take place from underground silos on the northern portion of Vandenberg.
The unarmed weapon is topped with a dummy warhead — typically a re-entry vehicle equipped with sensors to gather reams of data.
Sunday’s test is one of two planned next week. Another Minuteman test is scheduled for early Thursday.
Both tests are part of an ongoing program to collect data about the reliability and accuracy of the nation’s Minuteman 3 weapon fleet.
The 576th Flight Test Squadron, which is based at Vandenberg, installs all the test-unique equipment on the weapons.
A task force for both launches includes members from the 90th Missile Wing, F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo., and 91st Missile Wing, Minot AFB, N.D., officials said. They handle chores associated with readying and launching the weapons.
The Air Force has some 450 nuclear-tipped Minuteman 3 missiles on alert in and around Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming.
Before September ends, Space Exploration Technologies hopes to launch its first Falcon 9 rocket from the West Coast. That delayed liftoff, from Space Launch Complex-4 East, now reportedly is planned for either Sept. 29 or 30.