The first-ever West Coast launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket is slated for Thursday at Vandenberg AFB, Calif. This Delta IV variant, at 23 stories tall, is the largest rocket that the Air Force has ever fired from the US West Coast. It will carry a top-secret National Reconnaissance Office satellite into space. “This launch marks a significant milestone in our nation’s space capability,” said Lt. Col. Brady Hauboldt, launch director, in a release from Vandy’s 30th Space Wing. He added, “We’ve really restored a national capability for heavy lift on the Western Range.” This mission follows a $100 million renovation of the base’s launch infrastructure completed over the last three years. Overall, this will be the fifth Delta IV Heavy launch; the others have taken place on the US East Coast at Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. (See also Los Angeles Times report)
The Air Force will begin its 71st annual Operation Christmas Drop on Dec. 4. The weeklong exercise is a yearly tradition that delivers supplies such as food, fishing equipment, school books, and clothes to remote islands in the Pacific. It is the longest-running Department of Defense humanitarian mission.