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ULA Delays Launch of WorldView-4 Satellite Due to California Wildfires

Sep 20, 2016 04:56 AM EDT
Atlas V rocket carrying NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory
The United Launch Alliance has delayed the launch of the WorldView-4 satellite due to wildfires in the area.
(Photo : NASA / Wikimedia Commons)

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) has delayed the launch of a satellite due to a wildfire around the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The WorldView-4 satellite, an Earth-imaging satellite owned by DigitalGlobe, was slated to launch on board ULA's Atlas V rocket on Sept. 16. But controllers cancelled the launch due to a leak detected in the hydrogen fuel. The launch was moved to Sunday, Sept. 18, but was again called off due to a wildfire in the region that broke out south of the Vandenberg Air Force Base property.

According to ULA, the launch vehicle and payload are securely tucked away at the Mobile Service Tower while the fire crew battled the growing blaze. Given the circumstances, ULA announced that the launch will be moved to Sept. 26, Monday.

The wildfire began on Sept. 17, Saturday, and the delay in the launch would give the fire team ample time to put out the fire.

"Our procedures require stand-by firefighting crews for every launch to ensure safety of our personnel and facility protection," Col. Paul Nosek, Emergency Operations Center commander, said in a statement. "We've delayed the launch in order to concentrate our resources on the situation at hand."

According to Vanderberg Air Force Base officials, no space launch complexes or critical range assets are in immediate danger. But some power lines have been damaged by the fire, the U.S. Air Force said.

The blaze has grown to nearly 500 acres on south Vandenberg, and about 800 fire crew from the Vandenberg AFB, U.S. Forestry Service, CalFire and Santa Barbara County rushed to contain it. Apart from hand-crews and bulldozers, air assets also provided assistance in the containment, Vandenberg fire chief Clem Marrero said in a statement.

The WorldView-4 satellite, which was built by Lockheed Martin, is the second satellite to be launched by ULA's Atlas V rocket for DigitalGlobe, a company that provides commercial satellite imagery. The 4,601-pound satellite could capture images of the Earth's surface with a resolution of up to 31 centimeters (12.2 inches). Atlas V will take WorldView-4 to a sun-synchronous orbit of about 617 kilometers (383 miles) from the Earth, NASA Spaceflight reports.

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