NASA launches weather satellite from Vandenberg

Delayed five years because of cost overruns and development problems, a new high-powered weather satellite has been launched into orbit to provide information for military and civilian users.

In the predawn hours on Friday, NASA launched a 13-story rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base that lighted the night sky for miles around.

The Delta II rocket launched at 2:48 a.m. PDT from Space Launch Complex-2 at the base, located northwest of Santa Barbara. It was carrying a $1.5-billion weather satellite that’s armed with new state-of-the-art sensors that will observe the ozone layer, atmospheric temperatures and snow and vegetation coverage.

According to NASA, the satellite, known as the National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System, is a crucial first step in building the next-generation weather observation system and understanding global change.

The satellite “is critical to our understanding of Earth’s processes and changes,” NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said in a statement. “Its impact will be global and builds on 40 years of work to understand our complex planet from space.”


The satellite was built by Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp., with components made by Raytheon Co. in its El Segundo facilities.

United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co., manufactured the Delta II rocket with a Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RS-27A engine, which is made in Canoga Park.

Mary Glackin, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s deputy undersecretary for Oceans and Atmosphere, said it would “make America a more weather-ready nation.”