Centaur 135 carries Echostar 3 towards orbit. (Note the Cape
Canaveral lighthouse to the right.)
|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
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.