Vandenberg Launch: 23-Story Rocket Carrying Spy Satellite Blasts Off

A Vandenberg launch sent a rocket more than 23 stories long into space, shaking towns as far as 50 miles away.

The rocket was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, which is about 150 miles northwest of Los Angeles. The Delta IV Heavy rocket measured close to 250 feet long, the longest rocket in the country. It was launched to deliver an American spy satellite into space, officials at United Launch Alliance said.

United Launch Alliance is a partnership between Lockheed Martin Corp. and The Boeing Co. that provides launch services for the federal government with the Alpha and Delta rockets.

The Vandenberg launch drew hundreds of people to the access road leading up to the Air Force base, with others gathered throughout nearby areas to watch the massive rocket blast off. The Delta IV Heavy rocket, which was last launched from Vandenberg in 2011, is so powerful that its engines have shaken all the way to neighboring towns and it was heard as far as 50 miles away.

The rocket carried a satellite that will be used by the National Reconnaissance Office, the agency overseeing the nation’s intelligence-gathering satellites.

Col. Keith Balts, the 30th Space Wing commander who served as the launch decision authority, said the launch showed off the full capabilities of the Air Force base.

“We are excited to showcase this national capability for heavy lift on the Western Range in support of the NRO,” Balts said in a press released from Vandenberg Air Force Base. “This is what makes Vandenberg unique because we provide the full spectrum of space lift capabilities from smaller launch vehicles up to and including the Delta IV-Heavy.”

Some last-minute issues put the Vandenberg launch in question for a short time, but engineers were able to stamp out the problems and bring liftoff at 11:03 am, just 10 minutes later than originally planned.

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