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Atlas V Launch a "GO" for tonight

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Synopsis

Despite more rain on the way, according to Brian Webb of Launch Alert "Tonight's planned launch of an Atlas V rocket from Vandenberg AFB appears to be on schedule for a 7:13:30 PST liftoff.” More details on the launch below (only the day/time has been updated).

Vandenberg Air Force base is 120 miles West North West of Westlake Village. Cloud cover permitting, the launch should be easily visible.

Previously From Launch Alert:

ATLAS V LAUNCH VIEWING

An Atlas V rocket carrying a classified National Reconnaissance Office
payload is scheduled for launch from Vandenberg AFB Thursday evening,
December 11. The Atlas is set to lift-off from Space Launch Complex-3
(SLC-3) on south base at 19:17 PST, the presumed start of a classified
launch window.

Following lift-off, the Atlas will climb vertically for several
seconds, then gradually nose over and head out to sea. Although the
planned direction of flight is unknown, the vehicle will probably fly
toward the south-southwest, south, or south-southeast.

The Atlas V uses liquid propellant first and second stages. For this
launch, four solid rocket motors are strapped to the first stage for
added thrust.

The first stage booster engine and strap-on solid rocket motors will
ignite on the launch pad. The solid rocket motors will burn for about
the first minute or two of flight before running out of fuel and being
jettisoned at about +1:56. The first stage liquid propellant booster
engine will continue burning until booster engine cutoff (BECO) at
about +4:11.

After a few seconds, stage 1/2 separation occurs followed by second
stage ignition. Several minutes later, the second stage containing the
NROL-35 payload will reach orbit.

Weather permitting, the first few minutes of the launch could be
visible to the unaided eye from all of California south of Sacramento,
southwest Nevada, western Arizona, most of Baja California, and
northwest Mexico.

For the first few minutes of flight, the rocket will have a bright
orange flame due to the solid rocket motors. When the solid motors
burn out, the Atlas will decrease in brightness and resemble a moving
star.

The launch probably occurs too long after sunset for the Sun to
illuminate the first stage exhaust. However, observers in dark
locations may be able to see the rocket's tenuous exhaust plume during
the last minute or so of the first stage burn.

Under good conditions, the launch could be visible to the unaided eye
until first stage booster engine cutoff. Second stage ignition and the
second stage burn will probably not be visible to most observers
without optical assistance.

To see the launch, you will need a location with an unobstructed
horizon in the direction of Vandenberg AFB and the ocean south of the
base. If possible, the location should also be far from city lights.
Although the launch should be visible to the unaided eye, you will
probably see more if you use binoculars (especially tripod-mounted
binoculars) or a telescope.

If you plan to drive to the mountains for the launch, allow yourself
plenty of time to get there and drive very carefully. Mountain roads
are dangerous and careless driving or parking can lead to tragedy.
Also, be aware of your surroundings after you get out of your vehicle.

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LAUNCH AND COUNTDOWN STATUS

For launch and countdown status for the Atlas V/NROL-35 launch,
consult the following sources:

Web Sites with Countdown Status:

www.spaceflightnow.com

Webcasts: None announced

Satellite Feeds: None announced

Launch Updates:

twitter.com/ulalaunch (hashtags #NROL35 and #AtlasV)

instagram.com/ulalaunch (hashtags #NROL35 and #AtlasV)

twitter.com/spaceflightnow/

twitter.com/30thSpaceWing

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RESOURCES

For additional information related to the Atlas V/NROL-35 launch, go
to the following locations:

Launch Vehicle

www.ulalaunch.com/Products_AtlasV.aspx

www.ulalaunch.com/uploads/docs/AtlasVUsersGuide2010.pdf

Launch Viewing

www.vandenberg.af.mil/questions/topic.asp?id=745

www.spacearchive.info/vafbview.htm

Photographing Launches

www.spacearchive.info/vafbphoto.htm

Weather Forecasts

www.wrh.noaa.gov/lox/main.php?suite=public

cleardarksky.com/csk

Photographing Launches

www.spacearchive.info/vafbphoto.htm

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Copyright 2014, Brian Webb. All rights reserved. No portion of this
newsletter may be used without identifying Launch Alert as the
source and providing a functioning hyperlink or text that point to
http://www.spacearchive.info/newsletter.htm.