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Video of Largest Ever West Coast Rocket Launch

Check this out, the Air Force successfully fired off the largest ever rocket launch the West Coast has ever seen yesterday when a Delta IV Heavy rocket lofted a supposedly very large spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office into a low Earth orbit.

The Delta IV Heavy stands 235 feet tall and its three RS-68 liquid oxygen-fueled rocket boosters kick out 2 million pounds of thrust. The rocket can carry up to a 49,000 pound payload into a low Earth orbit.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

PirateTim January 21, 2011 at 2:46 pm


1. Sat Recon mission on N.Korea, Iran or China
2. Ufo-related South pole mission


Davis January 21, 2011 at 3:02 pm

To be honest, I immediately thought of this when I watched it:


belesari January 22, 2011 at 9:49 am

but it has a huge set of….


Crusty Old Chief January 21, 2011 at 4:30 pm

This payload is intended for a polar orbit and therefore the closer to the poles the launch site the less fuel required to offset the velocity present at launch from the earth's rotation.


A_Student January 22, 2011 at 2:26 am

Actually, that’s backwards. The closer to the equator the launch is, the less propellant it needs to achieve a non-polar west-to-east orbit. If you want a polar orbit, though, it doesn’t matter where you launch from, but you have to worry about what the rocket might crash into. Polar orbits can be achieved from Vandenberg by launching towards the south, but polar orbits from Florida would require flying over cities. (The rockets can steer around those cities, but it requires a significant amount of propellant to accomplish that.)


Dosco Jones January 21, 2011 at 4:43 pm

prometheus, you're not thinking it through. Launching east from Florida works well if your dynamics require an equatorial orbit. Recon birds don't usually work that way. Google yourself up some data on the use of polar orbits for recon work. Also, VAFB has security capabilities that NASA can only dream of. There's no way NRO would allow this bird anywhere near a civilian operation.


Egad January 21, 2011 at 4:51 pm

A bit less than 3 minutes into the flight and thereafter, the vehicle appeared to shed several bits of something. Anybody know what that was?


Phil January 21, 2011 at 5:03 pm

I suspect it's ice. The engines are cryogenic, liquid fueled


Dosco Jones January 21, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Egad, I'd guess it was chunks of ice from the external surfaces of the cryogenic fuel tanks.


elportonative77 January 21, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Vandenberg has been there for decades man. It's been apart of the Air Force's Space Program for quite some time. Well before all of these calls for reform and budget cuts.


jamesb January 21, 2011 at 7:01 pm

I believe the sat is a radar sat…..NROL-41


jamesb January 21, 2011 at 7:08 pm

ok…I can't count…NROL-49 is an Imperal Cyrstal series I believe…

the sat is up there to check on gama rays…. I would suppose from nuclear events….read explosions from device testing….


Jonathan January 21, 2011 at 11:39 pm

The launch looked CGI'ish. Anyone else get that impression?

The way it looked 10 seconds into launch, kind of surreal. Pretty cool engineering to be able to get those engines in synch with each other.

How much did the rocket weigh on liftoff? If each one had 2 million pounds of thrust, it must have been lugging some serious weight at liftoff. It amazes me that they can get those satellites in orbit with such precision as to not have them collide with each other. Pretty cool stuff I wish I could see what they were capable of.


Psypher January 22, 2011 at 1:16 pm

I assume this is yet another piece/module of the supposedly revolutionary NRO/NGA future imagery architecture puzzle/constellation?!

@Dosco Jones: Don't kid yourself, DoD installation "loose lips" have sunk just as many "ships" as their civie counterparts… (often with more severe consequences, like the Manning fiasco)


DiverDan75 January 23, 2011 at 6:30 am

That may be, but instead of bragging about how they got the info….wikileaks oughta be shot for treason. At the very least they should have reported to NSA that they were able to get that stuff, and let them plug the leak, not give it to the world. How freakin DUMB can they get?


ziv January 23, 2011 at 9:35 pm

Dan, I am not too sure about the severity of the punishment earned by disclosing the WikiLeaks disclosures. Assange released hundreds of thousands of cables and emails, and he showed the US had done just what that was illegal? Did he prove anything that was worse than embarrassing? I don't know the tactical end of this, but it seems like we didn't lose anything and he released nothing more than a few embarassing cables had been made. Both the CIA and the FBI have had worse problems, hell Justice has Holder saying that the Black Panther should be able to carry truncheons or billy clubs in front of a polling place and we are whingeing about Berlusconi getting insulted?


DiverDan75 January 23, 2011 at 6:16 am

Key words here being "The Air Force" put the satellite up there, and it's Vandenburg AFB.
I had a relative out their since the 60's, and his "remote tours" were building Johnston Island before the public knew "NASA" had a tracking station in the pacific. Back then, they sent up a rocket with (if I remember right) had 9 birds in it….7 worked, which was fantastic in the money saved of the other 6 off one rocket instead of sending up one at a time. The 2 that didn't work was insignificant compared to savings. So they ought to also be the one's to send up the biggest after already having the "most".
OUUuuuhhhh gee, do you think being a laser won't work too well through the atmosphere from a firing from outer space….do ya think it might be a big particle beam laser?
What the heck, being all these idiots ipedia, wanting to leak all the secrets and facts, why don't we scare the hell out of N. Korea while we're at it?


John Deere January 24, 2011 at 5:51 am

The facility was built to accommodate military shuttle launches over 30 years ago. The military use the facility because its location makes it difficult for observers track the insertion orbits of launched satelites/equipment.


DocM April 15, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Biggest until SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy starts launching in 2013: capable of 53 - 58 metric tonnes, 117.000 - 125,000 lbs, in one pop. With a liquid hydrogen Raptor 2nd stage that could increase to 65 - 70 metric tonnes. $80M - $120M a launch, about 1/3 the cost of Delta IV heavy.

Yeah, it’s real. Building the test flight bird now.


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