An unarmed Minuteman III missile test kicked off the new work week with an early Monday morning departure from Vandenberg Air Force Base in northern Santa Barbara County.
The three-stage weapon carrying a dummy warhead blasted out of its underground silo on the northern section of the base at 1:23 a.m., marking the second Minuteman test in less than three weeks.
Upon liftoff, the military tracked the weapon system’s mock re-entry vehicle as it traveled thousands of miles to a predetermined target near the Kwajalein Atoll in the central Pacific Ocean.
Vandenberg typically conducts four Minuteman missile tests annually to gather information about the weapon system’s accuracy and reliability. However, officials have remained mum about the outcome of the test.
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Meanwhile, Saturday’s planned launch of five Iridium Next satellites and two NASA spacecraft aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg reportedly will have to wait at least two more days, Iridium officials said Monday.
In addition to the Iridium spacecraft, also hitching a ride on the Falcon, will be NASA’s twin spacecraft known as the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission. The GRACE-FO mission involving a partnership between NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences will take over where the first GRACE mission left off when it completed its 15-year mission in 2017.
Liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex-4 on South Base now has a target departure of 12:53 p.m. May 21 at the earliest.