Vandenberg AFB
Rocket Launches

On the west coast of the United States, is the other U.S. launch facility known as Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA. While it does not have the notarity of the Kennedy Space Center, it does provide residents from central and southern California to as far east as Arizona with some spectacular visual displays during launches.

I live about 42 miles ESE (119'55"w 34'25"n) of the base and as such get an opportunity to witness some spectacular sky events throughout the year. Sometime the launches are spectacular and sometimes they get weathered out. Check out the addtional resources available online. For other celestial images visit my Birdman to the Stars site.

Over the past several years I've photographed launches from my yard and near Goleta. As you can see, my imaging has been sporatic. However, I do hope you enjoy these images. Many have required waking up at 1am to see launch and many have been scrubber or weathered out. In time I will post tips on how to photograph a rocket launch. Information that will help you if you live in Central California or go to Cape Canaveral.

Launch Photos

Launches after 2001 have been photographed using a Fuji S1 or S2 Digital Single Lens Reflex camera. Lenses used have been a Vivitar 18-35mm wide angle or Tamron 28-300 zoom.

November 4, 2006 Delta IV, DMSP 17 weather satellite for the U.S. Air Force.

June 27, 2006 Delta IV, weather satellite package.

April 28, 2006. Delta II launch, Calipso/Cloudsat package.

November 14, 2002. Scud Missile test launch. Captured Scud Missile makes its California debut.

October 14, 2002. Minuteman II. A late afternoon launch that produced a nice exhaust cloud.

September 19, 2002. Minuteman II. The illuminated exhaust clouds from this launch were seen as far east as Las Vegas, Nevada.

July 14, 2001. A Minuteman II launched to test the "missile-shield test. The original launch time of 19:05 hours PDT was halted when an inflatable boat with protesters landed on a beach near the launch site. The rocket was rescheduled for 19:40 hour PDT and lift off was on time.

Launches from 1998 to 2001 have been photographed on film, normally Fujicolor 400. Camera was a Nikon 8008 and Tamron 28-200 zoom lens.

August 18, 2000. A Titan IV B launched from Space Complex 4 East carrying a reconaissance satellite. Check out what it cost!

January 26, 2000. First commercial launch from Spaceport Systms International launch pad. The hybrid Minuteman II and Pegasus XL rocket went up on time.

January 18, 2000. Another Star Wars test (MSLS). This time the Kill Vehicle did not intercept the Minuteman II target.

December 20, 1999. Taurus rocket carrying a Korean imaging satellite, a solar monitoring satellite and the remains of 16 individuals whose dream to be in space are realized.

December 12, 1999. Titan II daylight launch carrying a meterological satellite.

October 2, 1999 Minunteman II. A modified Minuteman II left Vandenberg to test the Star Wars intercept theory. Down range in the Pacific, a Kill Vehicle successfully intercepted the incoming missle. Ronald Reagan had a dream!

May 22, 1999 Titan IV. To date the Titan boosters have had six major failures. President Clinton had ordered an investigation a few days prior to this launch. Fortunately the launch was successful and the mission was made operational. As with the launch a few days earlier, fog and high clouds obscured the launch.

May 17, 1999 Pegasus Terrier/MUBLCOM imaging camera launch from a Lockheed L-1011. The camera was built by a university consortium. However, after launch the solar panels did not deploy properly and the camera was not able to complete its mission. Fog and low ceilings contributed to poor seeing.

March 4, 1999 Pegasus-XL airborne launch from a Lockheed L-10ll at 40,000 feet. The NASA payload, the Wide-Field Infrared Explorer or WIRE began spinning out of control after is second pass over a ground station. This launch produced a spectacular exhaust plume similar to those seen during Delta launches.

November 6, 1998 Delta II launch of an Iridium satellite package. Early morning lauch under a full moon produces the classic "Illuminated Sperm Cell" as the rocket flys into direct sunlight.

June 23, 1998 Two rocket launch sequence. Was not able to get the second launch later in the morning. However, in the 1 am launch the first stage's strobe light provides a track as it falls off.

May 17, 1998 Daylight Launch, Delta II, the last of the Iridium Satellite packages. Seen from Ellwood Shores, John Belushi would have a few words to say about this spot.

March 29, 1998. Delta II, night launch, 22:02 PST, Iridium satellite package. Two frames, the second showing the second stage igniting.

November 8, 1997. Delta II afternoon launch. The rocket was launch in the earth's shadow just after sunset. As it rises into the atmosphere it re-enters sunlight, making the exhaust change from red t white.

November 5, 1997. Peacekeeper mid-day launch, 13:01 PST. Day launches are not as visual as an twilight/dusk or night launch.

September 27, 1997. Delta II evening launch, 06:23 PST, Iridium satellite package. The cloud display is the result of upper winds having fun with the rocket's exhaust plume.

Information about the Vandenberg launches can be obtained the following sites:

Still need more information about rockets or Vandenberg Air Force Base? Try Google.
Back to the Astro Index.

All images are © 1998 - 2006 Anthony Galván III.
Any use without written permission is strictly prohibited. For more information contact Tony Galván.