SpaceX Falcon 9 in flight
A view of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in flight from Orange County in October. Courtesy OnScene.TV

The scheduled launch of a rocket carrying a top-secret reconnaissance satellite into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base could light up the Saturday evening sky over Southern California.

The launch of a Delta IV Heavy rocket on the NROL-71 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office is scheduled for 8:06 p.m. The mission was set for Friday night, but scrubbed earlier that day due to a problem with a communication link.

If liftoff is successful, the rocket will be the second this week to blast off from the base near Santa Barbara. SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg on Monday, carrying 64 satellites into orbit.

Saturday’s launch is being carried out by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The Delta IV Heavy is a considerably larger rocket than the Falcon 9.

“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.”

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

— From Staff and Wire Reports

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.