NOV. 20, 2020–Just twelve hours remain to the launch of Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, an Earth observation satellite that will be the first launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in 528 days. The Lompoc area (in which Vandenberg is located) is expected to be absolutely packed for the launch – with COVID restrictions already forcing the closure of Vandenberg’s public viewing site. If you are planning to go see the launch in person – here are some things you must know. (If you’re viewing online – NASA TV or SpaceX’s YouTube channel have you covered.)
Sentinel-6 is launching aboard a Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket from Space Launch Complex 4-East at southern Vandenberg, at 9:17:08 a.m. PT. In this case, the main street at Lompoc, State Route 246/Ocean Rd., is the best choice for launch viewing, if you don’t mind missing liftoff. At its closest point to the pad, it is just three and a half miles from the launch (and landing site). However, it is also generally the most packed site, so if at all possible, arrive as early as you can. While not expected, SR246 was also closed during a previous booster landing attempt, so be wary. If SR246 is closed – get as close to it as possible, as there is no way to go around.
At Vandenberg, do not expect to be able to rely on cellular data for launch information. Instead, NASA has two numbers you can dial-in to for listening to either the countdown net or hosted NASA TV coverage. These numbers, respectively, are (321) 867-7135 and (321) 867-1220. This is an instantaneous window, so if a stop in the countdown is called (identifiable by the “hold-hold-hold” phrase) assume that the launch is canceled for the day. There are backup launch opportunities daily, with the launch time being about 12 minutes earlier for each day.
Weather conditions at Vandenberg are currently 80% “GO” for launch As for viewers, expect about 49 degrees Fahrenheit at the time of launch, though it will be significantly colder beforehand. Fog is not expected, per the National Weather Service. Winds will be relatively calm – though this may change quickly.
Lastly, forecasts expect significant rain in the form of one Falcon 9 Block 5 booster returning to land at Launch Complex 4. Expect triple sonic booms.
We’ll be trying to cover the launch live on our Twitter (@WeAreSpaceScout), however, as we’ll be on-site watching too, there might not be enough bandwidth for updates. Go NASA and ESA, Go SpaceX, and Go Sentinel-6!