Strange shapes and lights seen from Pacific Beach Pier were the SpaceX rocket launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Strange shapes and lights seen from San Diego were the SpaceX rocket launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base. Photo by Chris Stone

With storm clouds moving out of the area, Southern California could be in for another spectacular light show Friday evening, with a rocket carrying a reconnaissance satellite scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County.

If successful, the launch will be the second rocket to take off this week from Vandenberg. Hawthorne-based SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from the base Monday, carrying 64 satellites into orbit.

Friday’s launch, scheduled for 8:19 p.m., is being carried out not by SpaceX, but by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

ULA’s 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. “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 engine that can produce a combined 2.1 million pounds of thrust.

As of Thursday afternoon, the weather forecast for the Lompoc area was indicating a “40 percent chance of favorable conditions for the liftoff,” according to ULA.

“The only concern for a launch weather rule violation will be winds,” the company stated.

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

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