Saturday, June 16, 2007
Early Lunch, Late Launch
Most Americans have certainly heard of Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral in Florida.
Most folks don't realize or know that there is a U.S. Air Force Station adjacent to the Space Center, and is called Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. And Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is where many non-shuttle launches are made into space. Satellites and whatnot.
Living in this area can be strange sometimes too, because many of these rocket launches are not advertised ahead of time like the launches of the Space Shuttle. The reason is that some of the rockets and their payloads are for various U.S. government entities, and they want folks to be as in the dark as possible. That's a nice way of saying that the ones we don't hear about before hand are usually launches of spy satellites.
In 1996, when I was here for my job interview with the company I work for, I was driving around Palm Bay and Melbourne in a rental car. I was lazily driving through this one neighborhood when I just stopped the car on this residential street I was on. There was a rocket going up. I can still remember sitting there watching that thing go.
The point is, the Space Shuttle isn't the only game in town when it comes to rocket launches. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launches most of the other rocket/payload packages.
This past Thursday, an Atlas V rocket was supposed to "go up" at approximately 11:20am.
When I'm at work, and there is a launch of any type, those of us who are interested usually walk out front so that we have a decent view to the northeast of us, and watch the liftoffs.
I knew this launch was coming up though, and brought my camera with me to work, left it in the van, and took an early lunch to go to the closest Atlantic beach to where I work.
One problem. They ended up scrubbing the launch; in other words, cancel and delay until the next window. (There's a photo of my view of the non-launch of Thursday morning. Nice day at the beach, even if the flight was cancelled.)
Trivia: The Space Shuttle with liftoff boosters and such are less than half the weight of an old Apollo Saturn V rocket, yet has the same thrust that one of those Saturn Vs did. So the Space Shuttle takes off and gets into orbit pretty darn fast in comparison to the Apollo missions. The old timers around here say that the Saturn Vs that took men to the moon looked as if they would never get up into the air. They seemed to hang there and everyone would be urging the thing to just fly. So you take an Atlas V like what was to have gone up Thursday, after watching the Shuttle Atlantis lift off last week, and it's like comparing a Honda Civic to a top fuel dragster. The Atlas Vs are super fast and powerful, a much better power to weight ratio. Delta rockets are the same, really fast and amazing to watch. The show is over really quick.
So, I tried it again yesterday, only because of work, I couldn't get away soon enough to make it to the beach for the launch. When I realized I was running out of time, I stopped at a local park. And although I had my camera ready, when the rocket became visible above the trees, it was a streaking flame that was visible only for a few seconds. The sky was clear but rather hazy, and so although I saw the Atlas V zip on up, it disappeared before I could get my camera to my eye.
Consequently my efforts resulted in one single photo of the trail of smoke left by the Atlas V. Oh well. (Here's my amazingly exciting photo of the Atlas V smoke trail.)
According to spaceflightnow.com, the payload for this one was for the National Reconnaissance Office, and was classified.
At least they can't arrest me for having photos of classified hardware, I was just plain ol' too slow.