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A Vandenberg rocket launch is coming this month — and more may lift off in December

On Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, at 8:30 a.m. Pacific Time, the U.S. Air Force, in partnership with the Strategic Capabilities Office, conducted a flight test of a prototype conventionally-configured ground-launched ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. (Michael Stonecypher/30th Space Wing Public Affairs)
November 11, 2020

Vandenberg Air Force Base is hoping to end 2020 with a bang.

Several of them, actually.

One rocket launch is scheduled for the end of November at the Central Coast military base, while another two could tentatively take off in December.

The first launch is SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, which will take off from the base near Lompoc on Nov. 21 just after noon. It will launch the ocean observation satellite Sentinel-6, which would add to long-term sea level data.

That launch was originally scheduled for November but was delayed almost two weeks so that two engines could be replaced.

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The second rocket’s launch date is a little more uncertain.

Launch tracking websites say the United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV-Heavy rocket carrying a classified National Reconnaissance Office payload is scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 30, though those dates are based on unofficial information and are often subject to change.

The National Reconnaissance Office has said the rocket is targeted to liftoff in the fourth quarter of 2020, and an October report for Spaceflight Now said the rocket is “scheduled to take off no earlier than December from Vandenberg.”

Most likely, Central Coast rocket fans won’t see the Delta IV-Heavy takeoff till next month.

Meanwhile, one other rocket launch is also tentatively scheduled for the end of the year.

Firefly Aerospace, a startup aersopace company that recently set up shop at Vandenberg Air Force Base, has been pushing back the maiden launch of its first rocket for close to a year. In October, CEO Tom Markusic told CNBC that the mission is now targeted for Dec. 22.

Launch tracking websites SpaceLaunchSchedule.com, SpaceArchive.info and SpaceFlightNow.com all list another Space X Falcon 9 launch happening either on Dec. 31 or Jan. 1, carrying the WorldView Legion satellites. But that flight appears to have been delayed to September 2021, according to a recent interview with SpaceNews.com.

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(c) 2020 The Tribune

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