Centaur 128 soars into the heavens
|March 8, 1997
I was in Florida as a press correspondent in March of 1997. My
friend Sumio Morioka from Japan invited me to help him with an article
that he was writing. The article was to be published in a
Japanese computer magazine. He and two other colleagues had flown
to Florida from Japan for this article.
To our good fortune, an Atlas rocket launch was scheduled from the Cape
Canaveral Air Station during out time in Florida. The only bad
part of the launch was that it was scheduled in the middle of the
night. Thursday night, March 6th, we headed out to Jetty Park to
view the launch attempt.
When we got to the gate, the security guard informed us that the launch
had been scrubbed. We were disappointed, but I was glad to be
able to go to sleep earlier.
The next night we headed back out to Jetty Park. This time the
guard did not turn us away. The launch was still go.
My colleagues and I took our camera equipment out on the the Jetty that
stretches over the water at the park. This is a perfect viewing
location for Atlas and Delta rocket launches.
The time approached 1:00 AM, Saturday morning, March 8th and everything
was still go for launch. At 1:01 AM,
Atlas Centaur 128 was launched from Launch Complex 36A. This was
an Atlas 2A launch vehicle and it carried on board the Tempo 2
communications satellite owned by TCI Satellite Entertainment Inc.
This satellite was destined for geosynchronus orbit. Its intended
purpose of Tempo 2 was to provide direct television broadcast to the
continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.
The launch lit up the pitch black sky. As it proceeded upwards
towards orbit, the flame from the rocket illuminated high altitude
clouds. The clouds appeared to glow with a golden hue against the
black velvet sky. It was truly a beautiful event to watch.
It was a perfect launch for the satellite. Later on the satellite
would not be so fortunate. Just one month later in April, 1997 a
massive solar flare sent a magnetic pulse from the sun towards the
Earth. Three Ku transponders on the satellite were knocked
out. There were also issues with the solar panels and the
satellite suffered several power outages.
Primestar assets were bought by DirecTV and the Tempo 2 satellite was
renamed DirecTV 6. In time the satellite was retired
because of its issues and sent to a geosynchronus junk parking orbit.