After a sparse 2019, Vandenberg Air Force Base has few confirmed rocket launches planned for the new year.
The Tribune has confirmed only two commercial space launches on the launch manifest for the Central Coast military base in 2020.
Rocket launch schedules are subject to change based on a number of factors and could grow or shrink in the coming months.
Firefly Aerospace rocket first to launch in 2020
The first launch would take place in the first quarter of the year, from newcomer Firefly Aerospace.
Firefly Aerospace spokesman Eric Salwan confirmed the aerospace company still plans to launch its first rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in the first part of the year, though he declined to disclose a specific launch window.
Firefly is based out of Austin, Texas, and currently leases the former Delta II launchpad, SLC-2W, at Vandenberg.
It is one of several new smaller commercial space companies that Vandenberg leadership has said they are trying to attract to the base to ramp up its launch activities.
Along with a commercial payload for an as-yet undisclosed customer, Firefly’s Alpha rocket will carry 26 Dedicated Research and Education Accelerator Mission (DREAM) payloads into space.
The company held a global competition in 2019 to determine which DREAM academic and educational payloads would be included in the rocket’s inaugural mission. The winning entries include work from seven different countries, spanning both technical and nontechnical payloads, according to a news release.
The nontechnical payloads include children’s artwork, messages from children in pediatric hospitals and photographs of previous space missions, while the technical payloads include satellites developed by universities and nonprofits, according to the release.
United Launch Alliance to launch Delta IV Heavy
At this time, the second — and potentially last — 2020 launch for Vandenberg Air Force Base will likely not take place until closer to the end of the year.
Representatives of both United Launch Alliance (ULA) and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) confirmed they will launch a rocket from the base sometime in the third quarter of the year.
A ULA representative clarified that the launch is currently targeted for September.
The mission will use ULA’s Delta IV Heavy rocket — which last launched from Vandenberg in January 2019 — to carry the NRO’s latest satellite, NROL-82, into space.
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