Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s — no, it’s not Superman.
That late-night mystery streak of light across Southern California’s dark skies turned out to be a rocket launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
At approximately 10:49 p.m. Saturday a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying a payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office lifted off from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex-3 “in support of national security,” according to a ULA statement.
“Congratulations to the entire team for overcoming multiple challenges throughout this launch campaign,” said Laura Maginnis, ULA vice president of Government Satellite Launch. She cited Hurricane Irma and technical issues as challenges her team faced.
The launch, dubbed NROL-42, was ULA’s sixth in 2017 and the 121st successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006, according to Maginnis.
ULA’s next launch is the NROL-52. The lift-off is scheduled Oct. 5 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
ULA’s “Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle” program was established by the U.S. Air Force “to provide assured access to space for Department of Defense and other government payloads,” according to a ULA statement. The commercially developed EELV program supports the full range of “government mission requirements,” the statement continued.
Saturday night’s launch was visible to many in Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, and North County San Diego.