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About Vandenberg AFB

Mission
Base
Launch Schedule
Map
A Tour Report
Other links

The Mission

Vandenberg Air Force Base is located near Lompoc, California, on the coast. The coast of California conveniently juts out into the Pacific at this point. This affords the Air Force and commercial customers very convenient access to westerly and southerly launch trajectories.

Launching a satellite to the west is not particularly desireable. Remember that the earth rotates to the east. At these latitudes, the earth's surface is moving at a pretty good clip, close to 1,000 miles per hour (don't tell the CHP!). If you launch to the west, you spend a lot of fuel cancelling out that initial velocity.

No, for launches to a conventional orbit, Vandenberg is not terribly useful. Most low inclination (more or less equatorial) orbit customers launch from Cape Canaveral instead, where they have a clear path to the east.

Instead, Vandenberg specializes in two kinds of launches: Polar orbits and missile tests. They are an ideal location for high inclination (more or less polar) orbits because of their clear path to the south. And the clear southwestern aspect allows them to launch Minuteman III and Peacekeeper missiles toward Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands.

The Base

For more detail on the base, check out Vandenberg Air Force Base's web site. Some interesting notes:
  • Vandenberg AFB restarted their free guided tours on September 11, 2003. Tours are available, by reservation only, on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month, at 10:00 AM (increased threat levels or impending launches can affect this schedule). You must make a reservation in order to join a tour. They recommend making reservations 3 weeks in advance. When you call to make your reservation, be prepared to supply the names, social security numbers, and home towns of all attendees.
    For more info, see their Tours FAQ page, or call (805) 606-3595. There is also an interesting document for visitors. Also feel free to check out a report of my June, 1998 tour
  • VAFB now offers some photos of the launches of a few different kinds of vehicles
  • Viewing a launch from on-base is possible, if you have a well-connected buddy in the Air Force who can sponsor you onto the base for a launch. Commercial launches are your best bet.
  • Viewing launches from off-base is also possible. I have heard that a prime viewing site is at Lompoc's garbage dump. You might check maps of the area for likely alternate sites.

    Todd Walker has suggested a good site just under 3 miles west of the town of Guadalupe, just off West Main Street. It looks pretty good for viewing missile launches. Here is a map of the location.

    If I hear of any safe and good viewing sites, I'll post them here.
    Please share any info you get with me.  Brian Webb's site has some recommendations for viewing launches from the VAFB area.
    Jim Drebert says he had a great view of a Minuteman launch from Trader Nick's, in Pismo Beach. That would be around 17 miles from the launch site. He says he was able to hear the launch, as well as see it.

Upcoming Launches

Subscribe to Vandenberg launch alerts using an RSS feed reader. …or… Subscribe to Vandenberg launch alerts on your Google homepage.
(Subscribe to Vandenberg launch alerts via RSS)
January 29, 2015
6:20:42 - 6:23:42 AM
A Delta 2 will loft a scientific earth observation satellite (SMAP) into orbit at sunrise.
March 31, 2015
time TBD
A SpaceX Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch an ocean studies payload (Jason 3).
April 15, 2015
time TBD
A Delta 4 will carry a reconnaissance payload (NROL-45) into orbit.
You can get the most up-to-date launch information by calling 805-606-1857
Other launch schedules are at Jet Propulsion Labs and SpaceFlightNow.com

Recent Launches

WHEN WHAT
December 12, 2014
time: 7:13 PM
A classified naval reconnaissance satellite is was launched aboard an Atlas 5. (Delayed from December 11 due to weather issues)
August 13, 2014
11:30 AM
An Atlas V launched a commercial earth imaging satellite, WorldView 3.
July 2, 2014
2:56 AM
The Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2 scientific payload was carried to orbit by a venerable Delta 2 launch vehicle.
June 22, 2014
9:00 AM to 1:00 PM
A ballistic missile defense Ground Based Interceptor was launched sometime during this window. The Air Force reported a successful intercept of a target launched from Kwajalein. The Interceptor was launched by remote control from a Navy destroyer (USS Hopper).
April 3, 2014
7:46 AM
A Defense Dept weather satellite was successfully launched by an Atlas 5.
December 5, 2013
Time: 11:14:30 PM
An Atlas 5 launched a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office.
Thanks for the heads-up. It was easily visible from Azusa - at about 160 miles from Vandenberg.
John S.
Azusa, CA
Just wanted to let you know that I think I saw it all the way from Concord, CA Northeast bay area. A tiny orange dot ascending, with no strobes that I could see. Then it just went black, I'm guessing about +3 minutes. (Actually looking back at spaceflightnow, my guestimation of time was close) I'm not sure how long the Atlas stage burns for. It was pretty dim from the beginning, but I could not re-acquire sight of it around that timeframe. I would think a Northbound aircraft would only get brighter. Looked to be ascending due west, which if in level flight would appear northbound to me. Could be wrong, never know...
(Actually, it was heading almost directly away from you, southbound -- Russ)
regards,
Lee A.
Concord, CA
I followed the mission status via SpaceFlightNow.com, and once they confirmed launch, went out onto my deck to watch for the bird. Approximately 2 minutes after launch, I finally saw a fairly bright (magnitude -1) orange dot progressing southwards in the west, trailing a fairly large parabolic exhaust plume. I watched it for around 30 seconds through binoculars, as it accelerated, until the first stage burned out. I wasn't able to pick up the second stage burn.
Russ
San Diego, CA
September 29, 2013
Time: 9:00 AM
A SpaceX Falcon 9 placed the Canadian Space Agency's Cassiope ionospheric observation satellite into orbit.
This was the first Falcon 9 launch from the West Coast, as well as a first test of SpaceX's new 17-foot-diameter fairing.
August 28, 2013
Time: 11:03 AM

A Delta 4-Heavy (first stage consists of three massive boosters) lifted off from Space Launch Complex 6, taking a classified payload into orbit for the National Reconnaissance Office.
Attached is phone pict of launch as seen from 5 story "R" Building at Pasadena City College. Launch was fast, and only the trail was visible.

Thanks!

David Cuatt
June 27, 2013
Time: 7:27 PM
Orbital Sciences' converted L-1011 airliner drop-launched a Pegasus XL vehicle off the coast from Vandenberg AFB. The Pegasus XL carried a solar observation satellite (IRIS) into orbit for NASA.
Details at NASA's IRIS site.
February 11, 2013
Time: 10:04 - 10:48 AM
An Atlas V is scheduled to carry a NASA Landsat follow-on satellite into orbit.
September 13, 2012
Time: 2:39PM
An Atlas V launched a classified payload (NROL-36) and auxiliary "cubesat" payloads into orbit for the National Reconnaissance Office. (Delayed from August 2)
I watched for the launch from my office in Irvine. Nada.
Russ Schnapp
From the fifth floor of Building R at Pasadena City College, we 2 professors and a handful of students saw the rising trail of smoke. It was a subtle event from this distance and time of day.
David Cuatt
April 3, 2012
Time: 4:12PM
A Delta 4 (with 2 solid rocket boosters) lifted a classified payload into a retrograde (east-to-west) orbit for the National Reconnaissance Office.
October 28, 2011
Time: 2:48 AM Pacific Time
A Delta 2 launched a NOAA/NASA scientific payload.
We did get up and saw the launch last night. At first it was an orange-red light on the horizon, looked like it was a boat on the ocean. When we realized what it was we looked at it through the binoculars and then we could see it fairly well. It got bigger and better as it approached us and got higher in the sky. We could distinctly see the burn - flames etc. so it was pretty neat. We are glad we got up and watched it. Lucky it was a clear crisp night last night. Recently, until the last few days, we have had a lot of fog.

Anyhow thanks for the tip.

Joy & Laurie R.
Solana Beach, CA
August 11, 2011
Time: 7:45 AM
The Minotaur IV is a decommissioned MX ("Peacekeeper") ICBM that has been modified for use as an orbital (in this case, suborbital) booster by Orbital Sciences Corp. It's an all-solid-rocket vehicle. The payload for this flight is a hypersonic test article. It will be boosted into the upper atmosphere and released for a test flight followed by a splashdown (with no recovery) in the Pacific.
The flight was delayed from 8/10 due to weather conditions.
June 10, 2011
Time: 7:20:13 AM Pacific Time
A long-postponed (from 2009) Argentinian satellite was lifted into orbit by a Delta 2. (Delayed from June 9 due to a "software issue".)
April 14, 2011
Time: 9:24 PM
An Atlas V took a classified payload from the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office into orbit. (Postponed from April 12 to allow for an electronics package replacement.)
I got a decent shot from the hills near Murrieta
Best regards,
Adam
Murrieta, CA
March 4, 2011
Time: 2:09:43 AM
A Taurus (solid rocket vehicle manufactured by Orbital Sciences) launched, intended to lift GLORY, an atmospheric studies satellite, into orbit for NASA, along with three small academic payloads. Unfortunately, the payload fairing failed to separate, thereby preventing the payload from achieving orbit.
February 6, 2011
Time: 4:26 AM
A Minotaur I (derived from repurposed Minuteman II ICBM) launched a National Reconnaissance Office payload into orbit.
Delayed from February 5.
January 20, 2011
Time: 1:10 PM
A Delta 4-Heavy booster carried a National Reconnaissance Office payload into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base's Space Launch Complex 6. The Delta 4-Heavy is a big machine, comparable in payload and size to the Titan 4. It uses liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen as its propellant and oxidizer, respectively. This results in a relatively dim exhaust "flame", and a relatively transparent exhaust (essentially steam).
November 5, 2010
Time: 7:20:03 PM
A Delta 2 launched the COSMO-SkyMed 4, a European Earth observation satellite. (Delayed several times, due to hardware problems.)
I was able to observe the launch reasonably well from my home in San Diego. After initially focusing on what turned out to be an aircraft that had just turned on its landing lights on approach to Lindbergh field, I finally located the vehicle climbing on its first stage engines at around 2 minutes 30 seconds into its flight (long after solid rocket booster burnout and jettison). I was easily able to fillow the vehicle's incandescent exhaust as it accelerated, finally climbing into the sun during last 30-45 seconds of the first stage burn. Once it got into the light, the typical bulbous form of the hyperexpanding exhaust was revealed. After first stage burnout, I was unable to track the second stage — which is not terribly surprising since the second stage engine is much smaller.
All in all, this flight resulted in a much better experience than I was expecting.
Russ Schnapp
San Diego, CA
September 25 2010
Time: 9:41 PM
A Minotaur IV launched a surveillance satellite (SBSS).
The Minotaur is constructed largely from Peacekeeper missile hardware, all of which have been pulled from active service as a result of arms reduction treaties (Peacekeeper could carry up to 10 independently targeted warheads). This is an all-solid-propellant vehicle.
Launch was delayed several times until a software problem was resolved.
September 20, 2010
Time: 9:04 PM
An Atlas 5 launched a National Reconnaissance Office payload into orbit. Even the clouds covered up the launch, although it was broadcast on NASA-TV up until shroud jettison.
I am in South Pasadena (Los Angeles area) and my 5yr old son and I saw the Atlas-V launch tonight.

We were watching the live webcast of the countdown. At around T-5 seconds, the video froze and did not resume until T+15 sec. We ran outside at that time and observed stars and Jupiter overhead, but the western sky was hazy with a marine layer. It appeared foggy at the launch site in the video. I spotted it as a red dot which started to grow a little tail when it got about 30degs. above the horizon. The tail was about as big as your fingertip with your arm extended. We saw a silver dot trailing away and about 10 sec later we saw the red dot flicker and go out at what I believe was first stage cutoff.

It was about an hour past his bedtime and he was really tired. I think he was both a little excited and a little disappointed. Dad is much more excited by tiny dots in the sky.

Sorry no pictures.

Cheers,

Patrick W.
South Pasadena, CA
April 22, 2010
Time: 4:00 PM
A Minotaur IV launched a hypersonic research payload (HTV-2) into the atmosphere over the Pacific. (The test was apparently a failure, as telemetry was not received from the payload.) The Minotaur is constructed largely from Peacekeeper missile hardware, all of which have been pulled from active service as a result of arms reduction treaties (Peacekeeper could carry up to 10 independently targeted warheads). This is an all-solid-propellant vehicle.
December 14, 2009
Time: 6:09:33 AM
A Delta 2 launched an infrared observatory called WISE.
From San Diego, I was able to see the incandescent exhaust of the solid rocket boosters past my neighbor's trees. It was a dim red dot with a faint trail, that soon faded as the boosters burned out and the vehicle was hidden by haze and clouds. Then, around a minute later, the vehicle reached sunlight and the exhaust trail bloomed against a dark blue sky. The exhaust abruptly ended, although I could see a faint white dot continuing to accelerate southwards, presumably from the still-burning engine. I suspect that the vehicle was only briefly in sunlight during the launch.
Russ Schnapp
San Diego, CA
October 18, 2009
Time: 9:12 AM
An Atlas 5 launched a DMSP (weather satellite) for the Defense Dept.
October 8, 2009
Time: 11:51:29 AM
A Delta 2 launced a commercial earth imaging satellite (WorldView 2) into orbit.
May 5, 2009
Time: 1:24:25 PM
A Delta 2 launched a R&D satellite into orbit for the Missile Defense Agency.
Watching from fifth floor of PCC's Building R, we saw a faint fast trail through the bright Pasadena haze. Hard to see . . . there was some wavy smoke doing a drifting fade-away back at the horizon/start.

Thanks,
Dave C
Pasadena, CA
February 24, 2009
Time: 1:55 AM
A Taurus XL lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base at around 1:55 AM. Unfortunately, a malfunction (it appears the payload shroud failed to separate) prevented the vehicle from reaching orbit, and the Orbiting Carbon Observatory impacted the surface somewhere near Antarctica.
February 6, 2009
Time: 2:22 AM
A Delta 2 sent a weather satellite into orbit for the U.S. civilian NOAA agency. Delayed after problems with ground equipment on February 4 and 5. (Interesting note: this satellite, NOAA-N Prime, was damaged in September 2003, when it fell off a cart due to a rather simple and extremely costly human error.)
October 24, 2008
Time: 7:28:11 PM
A Delta 2 launched an Italian payload, COSMO-SkyMed, into orbit for the Italian Space Agency. The launch took place 80+ minutes after sunset, so the exhaust plume wasn't illuminated by the sun until very late in the flight. In San Diego, I was able to see the exhaust flame as the vehicle was due west, and sure enough, around 5 minutes after launch, I could see the plume -- for around a minute, until staging.

I saw this from Escondido, CA. It was spectacular! We had perfect visibility with stars at the horizon. I saw the vehicle at 19:30:28. No contrail, but a terrific flame plume that reminded me of a blowtorch. It was only about 10 degrees above the horizon. I thought I might see it stage, but instead at 19:33:00 the vehicle made it into sunlight and the exhaust lit up! I lost it at about that time. Verrrry nice and many thanks for the heads up.

David D.
Escondido, CA

September 6, 2008
Time: 11:51 AM
A Delta 2 launched GeoEye 1, a commercial imaging satellite, into orbit. (Delayed from 9/4/08 due to personnel travel difficulties induced by Hurricane Hanna.)
June 20, 2008
Time: 0:46:25 AM
A Delta 2 sent Jason 2, a scientific satellite designed to map the height of the ocean, into orbit.
April 2, 2008
Time: 1:01 AM
A Minuteman III will make a readiness test flight, sent a dummy warhead into the central Pacific at Kwajalein Atoll.
March 13, 2008
Time: 3:02 AM
An Atlas 5 christened a brand new pad with its exhaust, as it launched a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office.
December 8, 2007
Time: 6:31:37 PM
A Delta 2 launched a commercial radar imaging payload (COSMO/SkyMed-2) into orbit during a 1-second-wide window. Since launch took place almost 2 hours after sunset, there was no "twilight effect" lighting. (Rescheduled from December 5, 6, and 7.)

So far, I have one report of a sighting, from subscriber Leora, 160 miles north, in Monterey County.
September 18, 2007
Time: 11:35 AM
A Delta 2 carried a commercial earth-imaging satellite (WorldView 1) to orbit.
June 7, 2007
Time: 7:34 PM

Delta climbing away from Vandenberg (2nd photo)
A Delta 2 placed an Italian radar Earth-imaging satellite in orbit. Since the launch took place 10-20 minutes before sunset, it was, sadly, invisible from San Diego. Well after sunset, some whisps of wind-blown exhaust trail were visible, glowing faintly above the fading twilight.
Attached are some shots of the Vandenberg rocket launch carrying an Italian satellite in its payload.

The AIDS LifeCycle ride was camped at River Park in Lompoc, and I picked up four people for dinner in Lompoc. After dinner, we drove out Ocean Avenue to catch the launch.

The first shot shows the rocket rising to the right of the setting sun. The second shows it rising (image at left). The third shows it nearly overhead. The fourth shows the group pointing to the rocket with the contrail visible to the right.
Anita
Lompoc, CA
April 25, 2007
Time: 1:26 PM
A Pegasus winged booster was launched from Orbital Science Corp's modified L-1011 airliner, successfully orbiting a NASA atmospheric research payload (Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere -- AIM).
March 20, 2007
Time: 9:27 PM
A modified Minuteman II missile launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in to test radars associated with the National Missile Defense system. Because of the launch time and prevailing weather on the California Coast, this flight was not viewable outside of the immediate vicinity of VAFB.
February 7, 2007
Time: 12:14 AM
Flight readiness launch of a Minuteman III. As usual, this was a suborbital flight, tossing a dummy warhead into the Pacific Ocean, offshore from the Kwajalein Atoll.
December 14, 2006
Time: 1:00 PM
A Delta 2 sent a classified payload into orbit for the National Reconnaissance Office.
November 4, 2006
Time: 5:53 AM
A Delta 4 launched a weather satellite into polar orbit for the benefit o the Department of Defense.
Although the launch took place shortly before sunrise, which ought to have enhanced the visibility, few people were able to observe the launch due to cloud cover.
Crystal clear conditions on the Central Coast allowed a spectacular view from my home in Pismo Beach this morning. I can still see swirls from the first stage contrail drifting eastward almost an hour after launch. The most interesting part of the launch was shortly after second stage separation when a tiny blue cloud formed at the point of separation which quickly grew to a impressive sun lit bright blue cloud about 5 degrees wide.

Todd Walker
Pismo Beach, CA
July 20, 2006
Time: 3:14 AM
A Minuteman III ICBM was flight tested, tossing its inert payload into the ocean near Kwajalein Atoll in the south central Pacific Ocean.
June 27, 2006
Time: 8:33 PM
The first Delta 4 to fly from Vandenberg orbited a reconnaissance payload. This vehicle launched with two strap-on solid rocket boosters. (This vehicle's launch was rescheduled numerous times, for various reasons, including a problem with cork insulation, and a dispute over fuel slosh dynamics during the coast to geosynchronous apogee.) The launch took place shortly after sunset, resulting in a light show that was visible over much of the southwestern U.S.
In Pasadena, we hung around in the back yard waiting for the launch. Gazed at a beautifully developing sunset while watching for the Delta. Quite worth it--DeMille quality. It burned a golden trail up to about 20 degrees elev., then ran straight left from west to south. This was one f-a-s-t moving machine. Saw nice plume at stage separation/burn. Residual clouds were a bit understated. Thanks, Dave Cuatt Pasadena, CA
June 14, 2006
Time: 1:22 AM
A Minuteman III ICBM was flight tested, tossing its inert payload into the ocean near Kwajalein Atoll in the south central Pacific Ocean.
April 28, 2006
Time: 3:02 AM
A Delta 2 finally launched two NASA weather research payloads, CloudSat and CALIPSO. (Rescheduled from April 21, then April 22, 23, 25, 26, 27,... -- okay, it only had a 1-second-long launch window)
April 14, 2006
Time: 6:40 PM
A Minotaur booster (Minuteman 2 lower stage, Pegasus upper stage) launched several small satellites to monitor climate change.
April 7, 2006
Time: 6:00 AM
A Minuteman 3 missile was flight-tested, tossing an inert warhead into the ocean off Kwajalein Atoll, in the South Pacific Ocean.
I had to be at work early today and was driving when the launch happened. From Culver City the first stage plume looked very large and bright white. Very easy to spot. The sad thing was my brain hadn't started to function yet--and I didn't know about the launch in advance. So when I first saw it I thought that it was maybe Venus with some costal fog hazing the view---causing it to appear blurry and bloom very, very wide.

By the time my brain reminded me that Venus could not have been in that position. It was too late to see anything...

Kent
Culver City, CA
March 22, 2006
Time: 6:03:45 AM
A Pegasus was dropped from the belly of Orbital Science's modified L-1011 airliner. This business-jet-sized vehicle ignited its solid rocket engine, and carried 3 small satellites for NASA.
February 16, 2006
Time: 12:01 AM
A Minuteman 3 missile was flight-tested, sending an inert warhead into the ocean off Kwajalein Atoll, in the South Pacific Ocean.
From Pasadena, a backyard skunk nearly cancelled viewing of a punctual launch -- a warm yellow ball rising in the west moving to the left (south), then seeming to pause before fading to black.
Skunk also launched, but missed.
Dave Cuatt
Pasadena, CA
Very nice launch! Saw it all the way to Orion's belt/M42 in the west.
Dave (Central Valley)
Crystal clear night as we watched the missile's flame create a beautiful reflection across the ocean. The flame turned from bright yellow to red as it crossed beneath Betelgeuse and across the chest of Orion as it faded from view. Dead silence was replaced by a loud low rumble that lasted for several minutes.
Todd and Jer
Pismo Heights, CA
October 19, 2005
Time: 11:05 AM
The last Titan IV (in fact, the very last Titan) launched a classified National Reconnaissance Office payload into orbit.
As expected, I was only able to observe the Titan 4 while the solid rocket boosters were burning. A relatively faint exhaust trail appeared from behind a building, and as I focused the binoculars on it, I could see a faint flame at the top. As the vehicle climbed, the flame became a little brighter (as the exhaust trail spread out due to the decreasing air pressure). As soon as the SRBs separated (and they got surprisingly bright after separation), there was nothing more to see of the core vehicle. The SRB's flashed a few times (while tumbling), and then faded away as they began their descent to a Pacific Ocean impact.

Goodbye Titan!
Russ Schnapp
San Diego, CA

Wow! This was one day I was actually glad to be a taxpayer! My love and I parked at the North end of Union Sugar Road on the bank of the Santa Ynez river next to an immense field of artichokes, just under three miles from the launch pad. We could see the top 30 feet of the mobile service tower and the nose cone of the rocket through a grove of trees. The weather was perfect with only a few alto-nimbus clouds floating by.

Liftoff occurs, the last of the Titans slowly lifts up past the trees and comes into full view. Through binoculars we could see the lettering on the rocket. The flame was so very very bright, it burned an image in my retina that lasted for at least 20 minutes. The length of the flame was 3 or 4 times the length of the rocket itself. It only took a few seconds before the sound hit us. It started off as a loud low roar building into a thunderous clapping earth-shaking mind-blowing sound that will never be forgotten. The rocket turned to the South and pointed its engines almost directly at our location. You could actually feel the sound pressing against your skin and jostling your internal organs. When booster separation occurred, we could see both boosters tumbling down along with a mysterious 3rd piece of hardware we didn't expect to see. Everything faded into the sky except the wondrous contrail that looked like a 10 mile high thunderhead. We could still hear the rumble and crackle of the engines until 11:11, some 7 minutes after liftoff.

Inside tip for readers!: While we were driving back into Lompoc to get fuel, we came across a film crew with the biggest camera I have ever seen. There was tons of equipment including a generator to run it all. I stopped and asked where we could view the footage. The gentleman told me it's to be included in an upcoming pilot (working title "Space") on the Fox Network to be aired sometime between Spring and next Fall!

Todd Walker and Jer Jarvis
Pismo Beach, CA
The launch was visible (and quite audible) from here at Morro Bay in mostly clear but somewhat hazy conditions. Because of the southerly trajectory, we were watching the first stage main engine ignition, and solid burnout, from almost directly behind. I was watching with a 25cm astronomical telescope. It was a peculiar sight when the main (liquid fueled) engines turned on and began to push the smoke away from behind the vehicle -- suddenly we could see the flames from the solids much more brightly than before. My wife, watching without a telescope, remarked that it looked as if someone had turned on a sodium-vapor streetlight. The solids did seem to keep burning long after separation. Their crazy tumbling (still smoking as well) was amusing to watch. The main engines were still visible for a while as white points of light, but it was much more fun watching the solids zigzag around until they finally burned out and disappeared into the haze. When the noise showed up, it was appropriately impressive for one of the larger rockets launched from Vandenberg.

J.R.
s Morro Bay, CA
September 22, 2005
Time: 7:24 PM - 7:40 PM
Copyright 2005 by Fred Bruenjes
A series of beautiful photos by Fred Bruenjes





Copyright 2005 by Jim Tolley
An excellent photo by Jim Tolley
A Minotaur (Minuteman II/Pegasus) orbited an Air Force test satellite in a spectacular twilight launch! This was one of the best Vandenberg launches we've seen in years. If you've got photos to share, get 'em to me!
I used this launch as an excuse to leave my sweaty elliptical trainer early, and got home just in time to drag my long-suffering wife out to the street in the off chance everything would happen on time. Just when I thought we were out of luck, there she bloomed! A brilliant white plume against the dark blue sky. In my binoculars, you could easily see the rapidly expanding plume being emitted from the tiny pinpoint of the vehicle. It's absolutely amazing how much of a visual display this tiny vehicle can produce! At least two distinct staging events plainly visible from here. Afterwards, there was a little bit of color in the now-loopy exhaust trail, but not much. Very satisfying!
Russ Schnapp
San Diego, CA
A bank of fog drifted in about 7PM and my heart sank. Walked back into work next to LAX quite depressed. "We won't see this one guys," I told my coworkers. At 7:22, I walked back out, just to see if I could get a glimpse. Just then, the fog parted, revealing some blue sky. Right on cue, the Minotaur roared brilliantly into view (no one out with me to share in the excitement) and provided a spectacular show, one of the best I've seen to date. I hope my son filmed it for me...I'll find out later. Bring on Delta IV and the mighty Titan IV!!!!
Steve Harte
Long Beach, CA
Copyright 2005 by Todd Ewing Copyright 2005 by Todd Ewing We were stunned by the light show of tonight's launch. Since we had never seen one of these launches before, my family and I were excited and puzzled by the brightly glowing exhaust trail. I heard a brief mention on the radio that it was a launch from Vandenberg, so I was able to find your website via Google. I took these photos from indoors looking out our west-facing window here in north San Diego County. The darker image of the rocket has some window reflection and the lighter image was taken with a three second exposure without any tripod (lots of hand jiggle). I retouched them slightly to lighten/darken them. I hope we see another launch like this again!
Todd Ewing
San Diego
We watched the launch from our deck in Pismo Heights 25 to 30 miles North of the launch pad. Everybody knows how incredible the contrail was from all the great pictures. The cool thing we noticed from up close was when the first stage separation took place where we witnessed roughly 50 or so pieces of bright burning metallic objects floating down from the event similar to a fireworks explosion.
Todd and Jer
Pismo Beach, CA
September 14, 2005
Time: 1:01 AM
Another Minuteman III test flight.
September 7, 2005
Time: 1:53 AM
Another Minuteman III (suborbital) test flight. Sent a dummy warhead into the water off Kwajalein Atoll, in the South Pacific Ocean.
I just thought I would write to say that I was here in the lab working late (as usual) and was looking forward to seeing the launch tonight from the roof of our lab, and take a time exposure. Unfortunately, I got distracted, saw the time was 1:56am and thought, "shoot, I blew it ...oh well, might as well go and look out of the window down the hall to see how clear it is. Hey, what is Mars doing in the west?"...and moving! Ran to get my binocs and got to watch the last minute or so of the ascent through the window. Might have been a bit more interesting with a moon behind it, but I did manage to see a big piece of some debris or something falling away for a few seconds about 15 seconds before the main cut off.

John D
Pasadena, CA
August 25, 2005
Time: 1:01 AM?
Another Minuteman III test flight.
July 21, 2005
Time: 1:01 AM
A Minuteman III test flight.
May 20, 2005
Time: 3:22:01 - 3:32:01 AM
A Delta 2 orbited a weather satellite for NOAA. (Rescheduled from May 11, 12 due to high winds; May 13 due to an electrical problem; May 14 due to concerns over payload contamination.)
April 15, 2005
Time: 10:21:49 - 10:28:49 AM
A Pegasus XL was launched from Orbital Science's StarGazer (a converted Lockheed L-1011), boosting a NASA autonomous rendezvous engineering test satellite (called DART) into orbit.
The launch came off on time, and DART was a partial success. It apparently approached the target satellite to within 300 feet. Unfortunately, it shut down at that point, without completing the rendezvous.
April 11, 2005
Time: 6:34 AM to 7:00 AM
A small solid rocket booster called a Minotaur launched a test satellite into orbit. The satellite, XSS-11, was built by the Air Force Research Library. The Minotaur consists of Minuteman II lower stages and Pegasus (sans wings) upper stages. The launch was not visible from San Diego, despite clear skies.

More reports and photos of recent launches


Vandenberg AFB Area Map (from Google Maps)
(Google Maps) Map of Vandenberg Air Force Base Area

An aerial photograph of the area is also available!
It's worth exploring Google's photo database a bit. For instance, here's a great aerial shot of SLC-6, which was developed for Space Shuttle launches, and was recently converted for use by Boeing for Delta 4 launches.


Other interesting links...

The NASA TV schedule can be viewed at http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/MM_NTV_Web.html And you can watch NASA TV itself on your cable or satellite TV, or on the web at http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/MM_NTV_Web.html
Fred Bruenjes has an excellent web site with photos of Rocket Launch contrails.
Brian Webb's home page has info on viewing and photographing launches from the VAFB area.
Dos Gatos Communications features Anthony Galván's photography of launches from nearby Vandenberg.
...and on a completely different coast, if you are at all interested in a tour of the Cape Canaveral Air Station, Rob Svirskas has done an excellent job of photographing many of the historical sites of the early space program. I heartily recommend Rob's CCAS Virtual Tour.
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