Colors As The Thrust Builds
Change Even More
Centaur Liftoff And The Tower Is Clear
Centaur Into The Cloud Bank
Centaur Prior To Staging
Atlas Centaur 73
was supposed to launch at around 2:00 AM on Wednesday April 13.
The payload for this launch was the Geostationary Orbiting
Environmental Satellite (GOES-8). The launch vehicle type
was an Atlas I.
Because of this early
launch time we finished the meal off with
a round of coffee to keep us
awake on Tuesday night.
I had read that Jetty Park is the
watch unmanned launches from. My impression was that the park
closed at 9:00 PM. so I did not think it would
open. Sometime after this trip was over, I found out that the
park is open for late night launches.
strategy for viewing this launch was to drive to the
Patrick Air Force Base gate on the south side of the space center and
their viewing recommendation. When we
got to the gate we saw that there was a parking lot on the side of the
just such occasions and the security officer said that we could park
arrived about one hour prior to the opening of the launch
There were a few other cars,
but not too many people were interested enough or crazy enough to take
trouble to try and view an unmanned launch at this time of the day.
family was suspected of plotting a
mutiny behind my back. From
our vantage point we could not see the actual launch
pad. However you could tell where the action was. You knew
this because of all of the spotlights focused on the pad beyond the
bad news about an unmanned launch is that there was no
public address system. So we had no
idea what the status of the launch preparations was.
launch window of one and one half
hours this meant
could be waiting here until 3:30 AM and never see a thing.
minutes prior to the opening of the launch window, I
sent my son, Toby, to get my wife Mary, and daughter Marian out of the
car. The opening of the window came and
Like a pirate captain who forgot
where the X on his map was, I detected a sense of mutiny in the air. At
about four minutes into the launch window there was a flicker of light
beyond the trees. Then
the sun came up. Well it was bright
enough for the sun but it rose in the North instead of the East.
The Atlas Centaur launch occurred at 2:04:02 AM Eastern Daylight Time.
color of the light began as red, and then quickly switched to green,
followed by yellow, followed by orange.
video frames shown on this page, you can actually see some of the
colors. as the launch progressed. The colors and brightness
much more intense than the video captured.
You will also note
that during the early phase of the launch, the exhaust plume from the
rocket appears as a round blob of light. The flame was so intense
that it overwhelmed the recording sensors and auto-focus mechanism of
the video camera.
With the bright
light from the rocket illuminating the sky you see that there was a low
cloud layer above the launch site.
It did not take
long for the rocket to intercept the cloud layer. The rocket
proceeded through and on to the other side. Once it got past the
could we had a fairly clear view of the launch vehicle.
heard the "Oohs" and "Ah's" from my
family members and I knew the threat of mutiny was over. The
meager Atlas rocket light up the sky as
if it were daylight. The shuttle was
impressive, but in its own way the Atlas at night could certainly hold
for any viewing spectacle.
comment was that "Fireworks would never be the
same." There were some thin
high-level clouds that the Atlas illuminated brilliantly. Again
after quite a delay the sound reached
us. It sounded very much like the
were able to watch the staging of the Atlas as the first
stage engines dropped away. In the next to last video frame that
present here you can see the vehicle exhaust plume bloom in size just
prior to staging. After staging in the last video frame you can
see the plume returns to normal size
just after staging. After staging note that there are two distinct
excited to be able to see an Atlas launch. I
imagined what it must have been like when John Glenn was
orbit with an Atlas launch vehicle just a little over 32 years ago it
Atlas that carried John Glenn into orbit.
was time to return to our hotel room base of
operations. Everyone was tired, but I don't think anyone
would have missed that view for the world.