Spaceflight Insider

ULA targeting late October/early November for WorldView-4 launch

Putting out the blaze

An aircraft drops fire retardant on the blaze, Sept. 20, 2016. The wildfire caused ULA to delay the launch of the WorldView-4 satellite. Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Shane Phipps / U.S. Air Force

United Launch Alliance (ULA) is still feeling the effect of the recent wildfire at Vandenberg Air Force Base, prompting the company to target late October or early November for the launch of the WorldView-4 mission.

According to an Oct. 10 update on ULA’s website, the launch of the Atlas V with DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-4 satellite was delayed “pending final evaluation of infrastructure following the recent wildfires on Vandenberg Air Force Base.” The company will continue to work with its customer as well as the 30th Space Wing to establish a new launch date.

During the first launch attempt, Sept. 16, 2016, a leaky hydrogen valve during fueling operations caused a 48-hour delay – to ensure ULA fully understood the problem. However, by that time, a wildfire had cropped up and the 30th Space Wing ordered all launch activity to stop until what would ultimately become the largest wildfire in Vandenberg’s history was contained.

After burning for nearly two weeks and consuming some 20 square miles (50 square kilometers) of land, the blaze was finally contained and put out. However, while no major buildings were affected by the fire, a lot of infrastructures still need to be inspected.

According to an Oct. 6 news release by the 30th Space Wing, the Space Communication Squadron is still validating more than 200 miles (320 kilometers) of copper and fiber cable crisscrossing the burned areas, which involves hiking into often mountainous terrain and visually checking the cables.



Derek Richardson is a student studying mass media with an emphasis in contemporary journalism at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. He is currently the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also writes a blog, called Orbital Velocity, about the space station. His passion for space ignited when he watched space shuttle Discovery leap to space on Oct. 29, 1998. He saw his first in-person launch on July 8, 2011 when the space shuttle launched for the final time. Today, this fervor has accelerated toward orbit and shows no signs of slowing down. After dabbling in math and engineering courses in college, he soon realized that his true calling was communicating to others about space exploration and spreading that passion.

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