If you live near Santa Barbara, don’t be alarmed if you feel an earthquake-type shudder at around 1 p.m. this afternoon. Vandenberg Air Force Base is set to launch the country’s largest unmanned rocket, the Delta IV Heavy, at 1:08 p.m. (PST) today. According to United Launch Alliance (the company who made the rocket), the craft will be carrying a payload from “the National Reconnaissance Office.” The LA Times reports that this is likely to be a “a high-powered $1-billion spy satellite,” that can take pictures “detailed enough to distinguish the make and model of an automobile thousands of miles below.”
Vandenberg Air Force Base quotes launch director Lt. Col. Brady Hauboldt on the significance of this launch for California in their press release, saying “We’ve really restored a national capability for heavy lift on the Western Range, something we have not had since the last of the Titan IV-Bs flew out of Vandenberg.” The Delta IV Heavy rocket has been launched four times in the past, all from the East Coast.
If you want to view the launch but are not located on the beach or in the mountains, tune in to the United Launch Alliance website, where they will be webcasting the event live.