Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct the location of Vandenberg Space Force Base.
Southern Californians looked up to the sky Thursday night as a rocket from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in Santa Barbara County blazed over the county.
The object was first seen over the region around 7:30 p.m. While some initially speculated that it was a SpaceX mission, the base’s Space Systems Command confirmed after 11:30 p.m. that the rocket was a part of a mission known as Victus Nox, according to KTLA sister station KSWB.
The mission was a coordinated effort between the U.S. Space Force and Firefly Aerospace, successfully launching a Millennium Space Systems-built vehicle — known as the Alpha FLTA003 — with a Victus Nox satellite into the atmosphere.
According to officials, liftoff took place at 7:28 p.m., which was the first available launch window roughly 27 hours after receiving orders. This was a record for a responsive space launch, the department added.
The previous record for a responsive space launch was the liftoff of TacRL-2 set on June, 13, 2021. According to Space Systems Command, that launch took 21 days.
“The success of VICTUX NOX marks a culture shift in our nation’s ability to deter adversary aggression and, when required, respond with the operational speed necessary to deliver decisive capabilities to our warfighters,” said Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein, commander of Space Systems Command. “This exercise is part of an end-to-end Tactically Responsive Space demonstration which proves the United States Space Force can rapidly integrate capabilities and will respond to aggression when called to do so on tactically relevant timelines.”
Now in orbit, officials say the next objective is to “initialize the space vehicle and begin operations in under 48 hours.”
With Thursday’s launch, some social media users as far east as Nevada and Arizona also reported catching a glimpse of the rocket as it soared through the sky.
The National Weather Service station in Las Vegas reported seeing the rocket’s contrail from their backyard in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Photos captured by KSWB viewers showing the Victus Nox launch from San Diego can be found below: