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Vandenberg's fourth Atlas V launch scheduled

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Team Vandenberg is scheduled to launch an Atlas V from Space Launch Complex-3 here April 14 at 9:24 p.m. PDT.

The launch, originally scheduled April 12, was delayed 48-hours in order to allow time to evaluate the need to replace an avionics component on the vehicle.

"The weather forecast looks great with 100 percent chance of acceptable weather. Launch processing is going well and we are in support of the April 14 launch date," said Jill Altenhofen, United Launch Alliance internal communications.

This will be the fourth Atlas V processed at Vandenberg and the 605th overall Atlas mission in U.S. history.

"This Atlas rocket launch is unique in that it has just one solid rocket booster attached to the side of the rocket," said Lt. Col. Jenns Robertson, 4th Space Launch Squadron operations officer. "We're conditioned from 30-years of Space Shuttle launches to look for two, so this looks asymmetrical on takeoff. The fact is we didn't need two solids, with powerful RD-180 engines on board, so we use just the one."

This launch is predicted to be loud because the RD-180 engines create more audible noise and solid rocket motors are generally louder, said Robertson.

The rocket arrived at Vandenberg in the fall of 2010 and processing began on SLC-3 in December 2010.

"We've worked side by side with the United Launch Alliance and the entire 30th Space Wing to pull this campaign together over the last few months and are now 'GO' for launch" said Capt. Joseph Howerton, Atlas V flight commander. "We're all excited to have the opportunity to launch our newest Atlas V and demonstrate Team Vandenberg's continued contributions to space power."

The rocket will carry a national security payload for the National Reconnaissance Office.