Delta IV Heavy
The Delta IV Heavy on the launch pad at Vandenberg.

Following a series of weather problems and technical glitches that prompted repeated delays, a rocket carrying a spy satellite is scheduled to launch Saturday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County, likely giving the Southland a dramatic aerial light show.

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket is scheduled for liftoff at 11:05 a.m. It will be carrying a U.S. National Reconnaissance Office satellite into orbit. United Launch Alliance is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

The launch has been delayed at least five times previously, with the most recent attempt on Dec. 20. Previous launches were pushed back due to issues including high winds and a hydrogen leak. On Dec. 8, the planned launch was scrubbed just 7.5 seconds before liftoff due to a technical glitch.

As of Friday afternoon, ULA officials said a launch-readiness review had been completed and the team gave a unanimous “go” for liftoff on Saturday.

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.

Rocket launches from Vandenberg traditionally lead to dramatic light shows in the skies over Southern California and the southwestern United States, although the display is much more pronounced during nighttime hours.

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