ULA Delta IV Heavy – NROL-82

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A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket launched a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The NROL-82 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex-6 (SLC-6) at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. This was the 143rd mission for United Launch Alliance. It is the 90th mission in support of U.S. national security and the 31st launch for the NRO. Today’s launch was also the 386th Delta launch since 1960, the 13th Delta IV Heavy and 9th Delta IV Heavy launch for the NRO.

This was the second rocket launch I photographed on the West Coast. My first launch at Vandenberg AFB was the RADARSAT mission launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Launches from the West Coast are rather rare, as most of the launches happen from Kennedy Space Center or Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. However, I love this location way more from a photographer’s viewpoint. I love the rugged hills which hide the launch pads from public eyes and give you unique views of the launch pads.

Mission Details

• Rocket: Delta IV Heavy
• Mission: NROL-82
• Launch Date and Time (Scheduled): April 26, 1:46 p.m. PDT.
• Launch Location: Space Launch Complex-6, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

NROL-82 Mission Profil

Launch Webcast

Liveblog

Preparations and Remote Camera Setup

A day before launch we were scheduled to set up our remote cameras in the afternoon. This was my first time setting up remote cameras and I was worried if my setup would work and how pictures would turn out.  While setting up the remote cameras, I also had a chance to take some pictures of the rocket, still sitting inside the Mobile Service Tower. The Mobile Assembly Shelter was already rolled back.

Between the remote camera set up and launch, my camera captured some scenes in between. The weather on Sunday was cloudy and we had even some fog around the launchpad. The whole situation changed on Monday. Beautiful blue skies, no fog but some winds. See the difference below.

Launch Day and Launch Viewing

On Launch Day we shuttled out to the Media Viewing Site, located on the Vandenberg AFB. From that spot, we were about 8.7 miles away from the launchpad, with no direct line of sight. The rocket was covered by a mountain range and we would have to wait for the rocket to climb over it. Because of the distance and the proximity to the ocean, it’s hard to get clear images with all the haze. As we waited for the next 2 hours and hoped that the launch would actually happen today, I spend some time with flower photography right at our viewing site.

And then it happened. Delta IV Heavy lifted off from SLC-6 at 1:47 PM PDT. One minute later as originally scheduled. We had a great view of the rocket climbing over the mountains but the distance and the haze created some distortions in the photos. Find more photos of the launch in the gallery at the end of the post.

 

Launch Photos

See all my images from this launch. Thanks to the remote camera setup, I was able to get some amazing shots. Photos I was never able to take before. Just amazing! I hope I can continue covering these events.

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