In Brief

Earth-Observing Satellite Launch Delayed by Wildfire, Ground Leak

WorldView-4 Satellite
The WorldView-4 satellite was scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Sept. 16, 2016, but the launch was delayed. (Image credit: Lockheed Martin)

An Atlas V rocket carrying an Earth-imaging satellite will not launch until Sept. 26 at the earliest, after two incidents delayed its scheduled launch last week.

The WorldView-4 satellite was originally scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Friday (Sept. 16). That launch was delayed due to a "minor ground leak during propellant tanking," according to contractor United Launch Alliance's Twitter account. The launch was rescheduled for Sunday (Sept. 18) but was delayed again, this time to a wildfire that began burning at the southern end of the base on Saturday (Sept. 17).

Now, United Launch Alliance has announced the launch will take place no earlier than Sept. 26, due to availability of the Western Range (the name of Vandenberg's space-launch range). The launch window will open at 11:30 a.m. PDT (2:30 p.m. EDT/1830 GMT).

The wildfire is still burning and has charred about 4,500 acres, according to the Los Angeles Times. Access to the South Base is limited to "mission essential personnel," according to the 30th Space Wing (Vandenberg Air Force Base) Facebook page

The WorldView satellites are some of the most powerful commercial Earth-imaging satellites in the world. Like its predecessor WorldView-3, the WorldView-4 satellite can resolve objects as small as 1 foot (31 centimeters) from space. The satellites are built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. and operated by DigitalGlobe.

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Calla Cofield
Senior Writer

Calla Cofield joined's crew in October 2014. She enjoys writing about black holes, exploding stars, ripples in space-time, science in comic books, and all the mysteries of the cosmos. Prior to joining Calla worked as a freelance writer, with her work appearing in APS News, Symmetry magazine, Scientific American, Nature News, Physics World, and others. From 2010 to 2014 she was a producer for The Physics Central Podcast. Previously, Calla worked at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City (hands down the best office building ever) and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California. Calla studied physics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and is originally from Sandy, Utah. In 2018, Calla left to join NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory media team where she oversees astronomy, physics, exoplanets and the Cold Atom Lab mission. She has been underground at three of the largest particle accelerators in the world and would really like to know what the heck dark matter is. Contact Calla via: E-Mail – Twitter