Tomorrow morning, Vandenberg Air Force Base will launch a Minotaur I rocket with a national security payload. Launch is scheduled for 4:26am PST on Saturday, February 5th. If it’s clear, the rocket should be visible for hundreds of miles.
If the launch is delayed closer to sunrise, you may see the launch aftermath lit up by the Sun and suspended against the dawn sky. Sunrise happens at 6:50am, so if the launch is delayed to within an hour before that, there is a good chance that the rocket will climb into sunlight during the first, second, third, or fourth stage burn and the exhaust plume will be illuminated by sun, creating an interesting display. Otherwise, you’ll simply see the light from the rocket itself (if it’s clear).
See details below on how to track “Launch And Countdown Status” if you are interested.
Full Text of Announcement
MINOTAUR I LAUNCH SCHEDULED
Vandenberg AFB Press Release
2011 February 3
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – A Minotaur I rocket is scheduled to launch from Space Launch Complex-8 here Feb. 5 at 4:26 a.m. PST. The rocket will be carrying a national security payload for the National Reconnaissance Office.
Technicians from the 1st Air and Space Test Squadron here executed emplacement of the rocket’s lower and upper stack in recent weeks supporting a schedule that was compressed due to delays in the recent Delta IV Heavy launch at SLC-6.
“I’m proud of the work our team has accomplished in support of this unique mission,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Harris, 1st ASTS commander and Air Force launch director for the mission. “NRO’s desire to demonstrate and integrate new technologies fits right in with our unique ability to launch Minotaur I and Minotaur IV rockets at SLC-8.”
The 1st ASTS provides space lift maintenance technicians, mission assurance, mission management, booster and payload processing facilities for SLC-8 launches. Showcasing the 30th Space Wing’s ability to press on and focus on getting the mission done, stacking of the rocket occurred just hours after the launch of the Delta IV Heavy Jan. 20. said Harris.
Col. Richard Boltz, 30th Space Wing commander is the launch decision authority.
The launch is a combined effort of more than 200 personnel from the 30th Space Wing, NRO, Orbital Sciences Corporation, and Space and Missiles Center.
Post-launch articles, photos and video will be posted to http://www.vandenberg.af.mil and http://www.Facebook.com/30thSpaceWing
Launch: Minotaur I/NROL-66
Date: 2011 February 5
Time: 04:26 PST (12:26 UTC)
Launch Window: Unknown
Pad/Silo: Space Launch Complex 8 (SLC-8) at south Vandenberg
Launch Heading: Not released, but probably southward (towards the south-southeast, south, or south-southwest
Launch Visibility: The Minotaur I uses solid fuel rocket motors, which burn brilliantly and produce a thick, white smoke trail. If the sky is clear and liftoff occurs at 04:26, the launch should be visible to the unaided eye for hundreds of miles. In outlying areas, the Minotaur will probably resemble a moving orange or red star.
If the launch occurs during the pre-dawn darkness, be sure to go outside about 45 minutes before sunrise at your location. You may see the launch aftermath lit up by the Sun and suspended against the dawn sky.
The announced launch time (04:26) is probably too long before sunrise for the Minotaur to climb out of the Earth’s shadow during the powered portion of the launch.
However, should the launch be delayed and occur within an hour of sunrise at the launch site, there is a good chance that the rocket will climb into sunlight during the first, second, third, or fourth stage burn and the exhaust plume will be illuminated by sun, creating an interesting display.
Once you spot the launch, be sure to stay put until at least T+15 minutes. There may be a long delay before the upper stage ignites.
For photos of previous Minotaur launches, go to:
LAUNCH AND COUNTDOWN STATUS
For launch and countdown status for Saturday’s launch, consult the following sources:
Web Sites with Countdown Status:
Webcasts: None announced
Satellite Feeds: None announced
For additional information related to the launch, go to the
Details regarding this payload are classified. It is being
launched for the National Reconnaissance Office ( www.nro.mil ).