Space X and United Launch Alliance (ULA) have been on alert and protecting their rockets and payloads as a wildfire rages at the south end of Vandenberg Air Force Base.
On Sunday, September 18th, an Atlas V rocket was in the deep in its countdown to launch the WorldView4 satellite from Vandenberg around 11:30 am Pacific time, but the launch was postponed to allow firefighters to remain on site fighting the fire. If the launch had taken place, the firefighters would have had to evacuate an uncontrolled fire. Since then, the rocket at Space Launch Complex 3-East (SLC-3E), was moved behind its protective service tower where the rocket was under environmental controls and contamination free from potential smoke that may blow into the area.
At Space Launch Complex 4 (SLC-4) are where the 10 Iridium mobile communications satellites are awaiting a launch from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, that was supposed to launch on September 19th, but was postponed due to the RUD (Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly) of a Falcon 9 rocket during fueling before a test firing of its 9 Merlin engines on September 1. Still no word on any possible causes or updates on cause or possible causes for the failure. But I am guessing it’s something on the ground support equipment side. Anyways, I digress, SpaceX has taken action to protect their assets. There is one more pad in the path of the fire, and that’s the pad that’s home to ULA Delta 4 rockets.
The fire has burned, as reported by Spaceflightnow.com on Tuesday night, had burned over 12,000 acers and is 45 percent contained. Firefighters has made progress since Monday night considering the fire had doubled in size and was zero percent contained since it began Saturday evening around 5:20pm, due to unknown reasons. Personnel were forced to leave the areas of their respective launch pads due to the fires advancing more towards the south towards the pads. The fire now is advancing west towards the ocean, which is a little good news for the firefighters working around-the-clock to battle this monster of a fire.