Delta IV Heavy rocket on the launch pad
The Delta IV Heavy rocket shortly after sunrise on Tuesday. Courtesy United Launch Alliance

A fifth attempt will be made Thursday to launch a satellite-carrying rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County, again giving Southland residents another chance at a rare aerospace light show.

The United Launch Alliance mission to send a reconnaissance satellite into orbit was scrubbed for a fourth time on Wednesday night. Wednesday’s launch had been set for 5:44 p.m., but it was originally delayed by five minutes, then scrubbed altogether less than 10 minutes before takeoff.

The delay was believed to have been sparked by a hydrogen leak in the Delta IV Heavy rocket.

On Tuesday night, a planned launch was scrubbed due to high winds. On Dec. 8, the launch was scrubbed just 7.5 seconds before its scheduled liftoff due to a technical glitch. An operational problem had caused a delay in the launch one day prior to that.

The launch is now set for 5:31 p.m. Thursday.

Launches from Vandenberg, especially those carried out after sundown, typically create impressive aerial light shows over Southern California and the southwestern United States.

The Delta IV Heavy rocket will be carrying a secretive satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office.

“We are proud to launch this critical payload in support of our nation’s national security mission,” Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of government and commercial programs, said in a statement prior to the two delays. “As the nation’s premiere launch provider, the teams have worked diligently to ensure continued mission success, delivering our customer’s payloads to the precise orbits requested.”

According to the company, the Delta IV Heavy rocket includes three Rocketdyne liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engines that can produce a combined 2.1 million pounds of thrust.

ULA has carried out 27 launches for the National Reconnaissance Office over the past 12 years.

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