Sunday, September 26, 2010


There was a launch last night from Vandenberg Air Force Base, which is just next to Point Conception. The nice thing is that the rockets go so high in the air that you can see them from a long ways off. This particular one, a Minotar 4, was blazing away going a bit southwest, so we had a nice view up at my brother's place. Each rocket shot (the ones with the streak) was 30 seconds long. Then there were other space related things, like sunset and moonrise. Makes the heart just sing with the music of the spheres, right?
So, the first shot was from just after it came over the ridge, for 30 seconds, and you can see the first stage burning a nice red, then the second stage igniting. The first stage was a solid fuel rocket, I think it was aluminum and perchlorate, making that distinctive aluminum burning reddish orange. The second stage was more subdued, I think it might be a liquid phase, because of the lack of a plume, all you see is the flame itself, no smoke trail. (less smoke for a liquid rocket)
The second shot is all third stage, I think, with a little bump at the beginning from my hand when I pushed the shutter down, and also when it ignited. I think it started up pretty close to when I pushed the trigger. Its quite a long stage, that one is...
Then there is the coast phase, and finally the fourth stage. Ignition of the fourth stage, which is about 90-110 seconds after liftoff, was about 100 km in altitude and about 1000 km downrange. What a long way to go in so short a time!
And you can see it going over the curve of the Earth, as it appears to go down, but is really just going further and further away. I believe it finalizes the orbit halfway around and then is done. This launch was successful (I learned later) resulting in an orbit about 540 km high.

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