Need a distraction from the events of this past week? Well, there’s nothing like a nice rocket launch to keep your mind off current events — and also remind you of the incredible things that humans can accomplish when they work together. The United Launch Alliance, the Boeing and Lockheed Martin partnership, is sending one of its Atlas V rockets into space today. The vehicle is slated to take off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 1:30PM ET.
Riding on top of the rocket is WorldView-4 — a commercial imaging satellite that will be operated by DigitalGlobe. The probe will join three other WorldView satellites already in orbit and capture high-resolution images of the Earth’s surface. WorldView-4 has the ability to image close to 263,000 square miles a day, and the entire four-satellite constellation can capture a single location up to 4.5 times daily.
To get these awesome images, WorldView-4 will sit in a Sun-synchronous orbit. It’s a polar orbit that will take the satellite from pole to pole, unlike lower Earth orbit, for instance, which runs from west to east near the equator. Sun-synchronous orbit is a special kind of polar orbit, too, that allows a satellite to travel over the same part of Earth at the same time each day.
It’s taken a few months for this launch to finally get off the ground. WorldView-4 was originally scheduled to launch on September 16th, but takeoff was delayed after ULA detected a small fuel leak. A second attempt to launch the satellite two days later was then scrubbed due to wildfires in a canyon south of Vandenberg Air Force Base. The launch pad was unharmed, but the fires took a week to contain and damaged electrical wiring to the facility. That damage has taken a few weeks to repair.
But now, everything is look good for the mission today, with a 90 percent chance of launch according to ULA CEO Tory Bruno. The company has a 15-minute launch window starting at 1:30PM, and to see this rocket take flight, check back here at 1:05PM ET when ULA’s live broadcast of the launch begins.