Vandenberg Air Force Base Launch.

I dont know why I keep defending my position on this… I think by now, every one knows and agrees that I am not a nerd… In fact, just a hint of geek goes my way now and then.
So, that said, Im sure it will come as a bit of a surprise to some of you that I admit to getting up when my alarm went off at 2:30am this morning.
The sad thing is that I had only gone to bed about 3 hours before that. Zim was over. Why so late will be revealed in another post soon (hopefully), lets just say I think you all enjoy the reason for our lack of sleep.
Anyway, 2:30 came a little too soon, but I had set that alarm on Monday, so in a way I had been looking forward to getting up at the wee hours of Friday for a while.
Let the record show that I even polled each family member if they wanted to join me in waking. But sadly, the geek only runs so deep in the rest of them.

As you can guess from the blog title, I was up to watch a launch from Vanderberg Air Force base.
They were launching a Delta II rocket that was taking NASA’s National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) Preparatory Project (NPP) mission. The translation of which is that they have a whole bunch of instruments to monitor the planets atmospheric parameters.
In an even smaller nut shell, it will enable the current 3- to 5-day short-term weather forecasts to be improved from 70 to 80 percent to better than 90 percent and to be extended to 5 to 7 days with 80-percent accuracy.
In other words, its a pretty big deal for those people lucky enough to live where they actually have weather.
The bottom line for me at 2:48 this morning was that the sucker weighs in at about 4,500 pounds (2,041 kilograms)!!! This guy needed 6 solid rocket boosters strapped to the side to get off the pad!
So what did I see?
Well, of course I just had to take my camera….
Sadly it was really really low to the horizon and so well and truly into the light pollution envelope of Temecula, so the results are not all that ‘flash’, but here they are…..

First sighting it looked a lot like the ISS going over, a little more orange and a little quicker, but if you have seen that, you know what first contact looked like.
It brightened up a little and then got really cool.

What the photo totally fails to capture because it was ‘live’ and very faint was that toword what was to become the end of the first stage burn was a very very clear shock wave or bow wave flaring out from the point of light. It looked a lot like a comet, only by this stage it was really moving.
The last exciting bit came then as the first stage finished and dropped off and then the second stage lit up.

You may have to do the whole click on the photo, when it loads, click again thing so you can see it full size.

Here you can see the ‘smoke’ that was left from the finish and start of the next stage. (Just ignore the plane light trail below it, it had nothing to do with the launch).
After this, it got really low to the horizon and really faint, so no photos, but I followed it by eye until it was gone.

If you have a solid net connection and 3min 48 seconds, you might enjoy this official video of the launch.

All in all, a pretty nice show and I am really glad that I caught it….. did not get a lot of sleep after the event, so I am really looking forward to catching a few zzz in the Rangie at lunch time.

Once again, just to be clear. I am not a nerd! Im sure that lots of people would have been out to see this if they had been aware of it!