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Team Vandenberg launches Delta II rocket

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A Delta II rocket launches from Space Launch Complex 2 here Oct. 28, 2011. The rocket carried NASA's NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) satellite into orbit. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A Delta II rocket launches from Space Launch Complex 2 here Oct. 28, 2011. The rocket carried NASA's NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) satellite into orbit. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A Delta II rocket launches from Space Launch Complex 2 here Oct. 28, 2011. The rocket carried NASA's NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) satellite into orbit. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A Delta II rocket launches from Space Launch Complex 2 here Oct. 28, 2011. The rocket carried NASA's NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) satellite into orbit. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Team Vandenberg launched a Delta II rocket carrying NASA's NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) satellite from Space Launch Complex-2W here at 2:48 a.m. PDT Oct. 28.

Col. Richard Boltz, 30th Space Wing commander, was the launch decision authority.

"Public safety is always our first priority, and Team Vandenberg did a phenomenal job ensuring a safe launch for this critical NASA mission," said Colonel Boltz.

NPP, an Earth-observing satellite, represents a critical first step in building the next-generation of U.S. polar-orbiting climate and weather monitoring spacecraft. NPP is the bridge between NASA's Earth Observing System (EOS) satellites and the forthcoming series of Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) satellites. The mission will test key technologies and instruments for the JPSS missions.

See www.nasa.gov/NPP for updates on post-launch NPP mission status.

Today's launch is the last scheduled for 2011 from Vandenberg as well as the last for Colonel Boltz serving as 30th Space Wing commander. "It's been a tremendous honor serving alongside the men and women who make Team Vandenberg the best launch team in the world," said Colonel Boltz, whose change of command ceremony is scheduled for January 2012.

Col. Nina Armagno, currently serving as Director of Staff, Headquarters, Air Force Space Command, Peterson AFB, Colo., has been named as the incoming 30th Space Wing commander.