Vandenberg officials launch Atlas V rocket

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Vandenberg Air Force Base officials successfully launched a Atlas V rocket carrying a Defense Meteorological Satellite Program payload at 9:12 a.m. Oct. 18 from Space Launch Complex-3 here.

This was the second Atlas V launch from Vandenberg AFB and the first Air Force payload to be lifted from Vandenberg AFB aboard an Atlas V.

Atlas V is part of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle family. The program, which began in the 1990s with the goal of making government space launches more affordable and reliable, resulted in the development of two launch systems, Delta IV and Atlas V.

The DMSP satellites monitor the meteorological, oceanographic and solar-terrestrial physics environments for the Department of Defense. Each DMSP satellite has a 101 minute, sun-synchronous near-polar orbit at an altitude of 830 kilometers above the surface of the Earth. DMSP sensors collect images across a 3,000 kilometer swath, providing global coverage twice per day.

"This mission is absolutely critical to the warfighter," said Col. Steven Winters, the 30th Space Wing vice commander and the launch decision authority for this mission, or final go-for-launch authority. "Thanks to the hard work and dedication of this team, our fellow servicemembers and allies around the world can carry out their missions with the best weather data available."

Once operational, the DMSP payload will be managed by the National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration satellite control center in Suitland, Md., with support from the 6th Space Operations Squadron, an all Air Force Reserve unit stationed out of Schriever AFB, Colo.