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Atlas Centaur 135

  Photographs taken by me at Jetty Park.
Photo Credits: Mine
Liftoff of Atlas Centaur 135
Atlas Centaur 135 carries Echostar 3 towards orbit.  (Note the Cape Canaveral lighthouse to the right.)
Atlas Centaur 135 ascends towards orbit
Onward and upward Atlas Centaur 135 races into orbit. 
October 5 1997

I was working on my masters degree in computer science.  Having a full time job and taking night school is  a tough row to hoe.  Taking two classes kept me very busy.  An opportunity came up for me to be a VIP guest at the landing of Atlantis on STS-86.  Even with my commitments at school, I felt that I could not pass up the opportunity to see a shuttle landing at the Kennedy Space Center.

One added attraction that weekend was that an Atlas rocket was scheduled for launch on the same afternoon that the shuttle was scheduled to land.  It could possible be a space event double header.

I had watched an Atlas rocket launch from Jetty park just a few months before in April.  Jetty Park in Port Canaveral, Florida is a wonderful viewing spot for Atlas and Delta launches.

The weather for the STS-86 landing did not look good.  For that reason I delayed leaving for Jetty Park until the last possible moment.  I wanted to have some idea if Atlantis would be cleared for the deorbit burn. Finally I could wait no longer, I had to leave.

Just as I got out onto the pier at Jetty Park, ignition of the rocket began. Liftoff of AC-135 occured at 3:01 PM.  I had intended to set up a tripod with a video camera, but at that point had to forgot the tripod and the video camera.  It was a beautiful daylight launch.  I quickly snapped two photos with my Canon A1 35 mm camera.  Then I realized that 2 shots was all that was left on that role of film.  I was disappointed that I could only take two photos but I hoped for the best.  I think the two photos turned out pretty well all things considered.

Atlas Centaur 135 was an Atlas 2AS launch vehicle and it launched the Echostar 3 satellite.  The communications satellite was headed for gosynchronus orbit.  It weighed 4,000 kg and carried 16 or more Ku-band transponders.  It's intended use was to provide direct voice and video communications to small dishes in North America.  The intended parking orbit was over 79W or 135 W longitude.

After the launch I had to pack up very quickly and head back to the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center. I only had about a 30 minute window in which to get back to the Visitors Center as I had to be ready to board the VIP bus for the shuttle landing site.

As I drove towards the Visitors Center, I began to wonder if I should not have passed on the Jetty Park viewing experience this time.  The schedule was so tight and after all the shuttle landing was my number one priority on this trip.

I did however get to the Visitors Center in time.  As it turned out I had all the time in the world.

To see my recount of the STS-86 landing please select the STS-86 link.

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UPDATED : January 23, 2007
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