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Top Secret Satellite Blast-Off Just Up the Road

As the LA Times points out, satellites will be blasted into space today from the California coast. I'm supposed to be flying right over Vandenburg Air Force Base two hours before the launch today—leaving Santa Barbara for San Francisco—but so far my flight is delayed. Let's hope our little Embraer 120 Brasilia isn't hit by a 19-story tall rocket:

A rocket standing 19 stories tall is ready to roar to life and boost a top-secret satellite into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base. On Thursday at 2:39 p.m. PDT ... Little is known about the payload except that it belongs to the National Reconnaissance Office. The secretive federal agency is in charge of designing, building, launching and maintaining nation's spy satellites. ...

The launch will also deliver 11 smaller satellites, known as “CubeSats,” for the NRO and NASA.  The miniature satellites are built in cubic compartments They will study a wide range of things, including weather, space debris and will track maritime shipping containers.

You can watch live on United Launch Alliance's website, starting at 2:19 p.m. Or, you can get an on-the-ground sense of the action in our piece "Going Ballistic," by veteran journalist Brock Brower (famous for the 1971 cult classic The Late Great Creature).