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Atlas Centaur 128

  Photograph taken by me at Jetty Park.
Photo Credits: Mine
Launch of Atlas Centaur 128
Atlas 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.

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UPDATED : January 23, 2007
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