Delta-IV/NROL-22 launch from Vandenberg AFB
June 27, 2006


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NROL-22, a classified National Reconnaissance Office satellite was lofted into orbit from Space Launch Complex 6 (SLC-6, pronounced slick six) by the first Delta-IV rocket to be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 8:33 PM PDT Tuesday, June 27.

SLC-6 was built forty years ago to support launches of the Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) program. The Air Force had intended to launch MOL missions on Titan IIIM boosters. The laboratory was mounted in a modified Titan propellant tank. The Gemini-B capsule was equipped with a door in the heat shield for the crew to access the laboratory. The MOL program was cancelled in 1969.

SLC-6 was modified to support space shuttle launches in the 1970s, but the Air Force space shuttle program was cancelled following the loss of Challenger in 1986.

In the 1990s, a "milkstool" was installed over one of the flame trenches at SLC-6 to support launches of smaller rockets. One Lockheed-Martin Launch Vehicle and two Athenas were launched from SLC-6. The Delta IV is the first rocket on a scale commensurate with the structure of SLC-6 to be launched from the space launch complex.

The Delta-IV climbed into sunlight about 45 seconds after lift-off.

Tailspin Tommy Harnish photographed the launch from Carlsbad, California, approximately 215 miles from the launch pad.

After the two solid-fuel boosters burned out, the exhaust of the liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen fueled core was transparent.

The view from Carlsbad. Photo courtesy Tailspin Tommy Harnish.

The two solid fuel boosters trailed behind the accelerating core.

The view from Carlsbad. Photo courtesy Tailspin Tommy Harnish.

The water vapor exhaust trail of the Delta-IV expanded as the rocket climbed out of the atmosphere.

Winds aloft quickly distorted the exhaust trail of the rocket.

The Delta-IV left an expanding cloud at high altitude.

The crescent Moon hung over the western horizon.

The view from Carlsbad reveals that the exhaust cloud stretched across the sky to the south. Photo courtesy Tailspin Tommy Harnish.

The exhaust cloud appeared more compact looking nearly directly up the path of the Delta-IV.


Previous launches from Vandenberg AFB More Vandenberg AFB launch photography.





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Photos of thirteen rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base:

Pegasus-XL/Wide-Field Infra-red Explorer (WIRE) March 4, 1999
Atlas-IIAS/Terra December 18, 1999
Delta II/Gravity Probe B, April 20, 2004
Minotaur/Streak September 22, 2005
Titan IV/National Reconnaissance Office satellite, October 19, 2005
Minuteman III, February 16, 2006
Minuteman III, April 2, 2008
Target Launch Vehicle, September 24, 2008
Delta-II/GeoEye 1, September 6, 2008
Delta II/Jason 2, June 20, 2008
Delta II/COSMO-Skymed, October 24, 2008
Taurus/Orbiting Carbon Observatory, February 24, 2009
Delta-II/Worldview 2, October 28, 2009

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Links

The home page of the 30th Space Wing

Brian Webb's Space Archive Page provides launch schedule and ham radio information.

Boeing's Delta-IV Launch Vehicles Page.

SpaceflightNow's Delta-IV Launch Vehicles Page.

Boeing's Delta-IV/NROL-22 Page.

GlobalSecurity.org's SLC-6 Page.

Federation of American Scientists' SLC-6 Page.

Wikipedia SLC-6 Page.

Visit SLC-6 on Google Earth.

Wikipedia Manned Orbiting Laboratory Page.


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