Nation’s largest rocket to blast off Wednesday
A rocket developed in a joint venture that included Boeing is believed to be carrying a high-powered spy satellite capable of snapping pictures detailed enough to distinguish the make and model of an automobile hundreds of miles below.
Los Angeles Times
The nation’s largest rocket was set to blast off Wednesday from Vandenberg Air Force Base north of Santa Barbara, Calif., carrying a massive, top-secret spy satellite for the federal government.
The 235-foot Delta IV Heavy rocket was to lift off from the base’s Space Launch Complex 6 to place a classified spacecraft into polar orbit for the National Reconnaissance Office, the covert umbrella agency that operates spy satellites. Air Force security and local police have closed nearby locations as a precaution.
Analysts say the rocket probably will carry a high-powered spy satellite capable of snapping pictures detailed enough to distinguish the make and model of an automobile hundreds of miles below.
The rocket was built by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. It made its maiden flight in 2004 and is capable of lifting payloads of as much as 24 tons into low Earth orbit.
Three hydrogen-fueled engines — each roughly the size of a pickup — will guzzle nearly a ton of propellants per second to provide 17 million horsepower. More than 200 Aerojet-Rocketdyne engineers and technicians will be watching.
Vandenberg has been the primary site for launching spy satellites since the beginning of the Cold War because of its ideal location for putting satellites into a north-to-south orbit.
The launch is slated to be webcast Wednesday at rocket maker United Launch Alliance’s website at http:/// www.ulalaunch.com.