Don’t Miss the Sky Party Tonight

If there’s one thing we absolutely love in Newport Beach, it’s a good rocket launch.

And our collective rocket love is about to become yet another nighttime reality — remember this epic launch? — at exactly 8:19 tonight when a Delta IV Heavy rocket will be sent into space from the Space Launch Complex-6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County, Calif. The skies are clear after days of stormy rain, so the photographs should be otherworldly, ethereal and AWESOME.  

NOTE: The rocket launch was called off Friday night and Saturday night. No rescheduled date has been announced. 

In case you were wondering, (and maybe you were??) the launch is part of a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing named the United Launch Alliance (ULA), and it will be expectedly spectacular. According to ULA’s official statement, the rocket contains three common booster cores, each powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine producing a combined total of more than 2.1 million pounds of thrust. (For those wondering, here’s what google told us about thrust: 1 pound of thrust is the amount of thrust it would take to keep a 1-pound object stationary against the force of gravity on Earth. So times that by 2.1 million and you’ve got a sense of what this rocket can do.)

Set your clocks for 8:19 p.m., when all eyes will be affixed to the skies. 

– Unknown Poet

Plus, there’s intrigue involved. The Delta IV Heavy Rocket will carry a secret satellite, though I guess secret’s out now, huh?

Anyway, the secret satellite set to be used by the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), a U.S. Government agency in charge of designing, building, launching and maintaining America’s intelligence satellites. The NRO was officially launched (hehe) September 1961 as a classified agency in the Department of Defense but was declassified September 1992 and now lives that cool, surreptitious declassified life launching rockets and such, all in the name of innovative national security. (Read more about the NRO here.)

Delta IV Heavy is being sent to the skies as part of a mission called NROL-71, which supports American national defense.

“We are proud to launch this critical payload in support of our nation’s national security mission,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs. “As the nation’s premiere launch provider, the teams have worked diligently to ensure continued mission success, delivering our customer’s payloads to the precise orbits requested.”