Saturday, May 15, 2021

Good Day For Looking Up

Living here in the area that calls itself the Space Coast and being able to watch launches from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station is definitely an attraction.  It's part of what keeps me here. 

This weekend is a highlight for us.  There's an airshow at the Melbourne International Airport featuring the Blue Angels.  This is the airshow I've talked about several times over the years, but those were in March instead of May.  The Blue Angels stopped coming here and were replaced by the Thunderbirds, then the show stopped being held for reasons I'm not clear on.  The airshow runs today and tomorrow, giving us two good chances to perhaps capture some interesting photographs.  We also got to watch them practice Friday afternoon.  Tonight was a SpaceX Starlink launch that is a relatively rare ride sharing mission.   Sunday is just the airshow, and Monday will have another launch, an Atlas 5 carrying a Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous satellite, or SBIRS GEO 5, for missile early-warning detection.

So since I spent the day looking up - minus the parts of the day pulling weeds and cleaning out some wasp nests - I'll share the part I enjoyed with you!

The view to my southeast at 4:10 PM.

The view to my northeast at 7:00 PM, and within a minute of Booster Engine Cutoff  (BECO), stage separation and Second Engine Start.

As SpaceX explains:
On Saturday, May 15 at 6:56 p.m. EDT, SpaceX launched 52 Starlink satellits, a Capella Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite, and Tyvak-0130 from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
This was the eighth launch and landing of this Falcon 9 first stage booster, which began it's life launching the Demo 2 mission with Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS, the first manned launch from the US since 2011.

EDIT 5/16 8:10PM: the times I had on both photographs were in EST not EDT.


  1. Just ain't nothin' like the sound of a rocket launch! Can you more than just a rumble from your place?

    I always compared the Blue Angels to ballet, and the Thunderbirds to break dancing. VERY different styles of flying.

    1. The sounds we get vary quite a lot. The night launch last Sunday had a good, long lasting rumble, but it was 3AM and nearly dead calm. Yesterday's launch was toward the NE, so away from us, and winds were 15-20. I didn't hear anything. Launch direction and weather have a big effect on it.

  2. well, used to be, back in the day, the Thunderbirds flew out of Patrick for the Base airshow.

    I do remember some derriere-covers in Melbourne complaining about the noise of airshows in Melbourne also back in the days. The same derriere-covers that got train horns banned from the city limits past 6pm (and with the following increase of trains-vs-smaller and much smaller things...)

    I do hope that SpaceX is planning on using the Cape for Starship, but so far there doesn't seem to be any plans, dangit. But nobody, maybe even not Elon, knows what Elon is planning next.

    1. well, used to be, back in the day, the Thunderbirds flew out of Patrick for the Base airshow. I remember that well - we're just short of 40 years in this house. They went directly overhead most of the time.

      I do hope that SpaceX is planning on using the Cape for Starship, but so far there doesn't seem to be any plans, dangit. You and me both. There was work being done on Starship prototypes in Cocoa until the end of 2019/start of '20. I don't even know if that facility is still there. Supposedly there is a facility on the Cape, but I thought that was fully busy on nothing but Falcon 9 work.

      It would be a shame to have the biggest rocket ever, bigger than the Saturn V, operating routinely but never from the KSC.

    2. I have seen some indications that SpaceX is still looking at eventually launching from "The Cape". They have the Roberts Road area that they were starting to develop. However I think that their initial development will all be done in Texas but there is not enough room in Boca Chica to support their future launch pace even with offshore launch pads. Too, government launches when Starship is fully operational for cargo and personnel will require certain facilities for security reasons.

    3. Now that Patrick is a Space Force base, what will they do? Space Shows?

  3. Sounds like you live in a good place!

    1. It's a pretty sane place. Every place I worked during the Shuttle era would just kind of not pay attention to lots of people going outside to watch the launch, as long as you got your work done. The area is full of aviation and space companies. There's a company at the airport working on supersonic aircraft. All pretty good.

    2. We'd all go out to (try) and watch launches from Vandenberg. All we'd ever see was a squiggly contrail.

      Very different at night, though. 911 would light up with "UFO Reports" whenever they'd launch to the launch to the South at night. Once the LV got up into the sunlight, the exhaust plume would just light up the sky.

    3. Everywhere I grew up, there were launches.

      Vandengerg, Kwajalein, Satellite Beach.

      Now, in Gainesville? Some occasional weather rocket contrails, but nothing else. Too much tree cover to even see the distant launches from the Cape.


    4. Kwaj? I thought the joke was that Kwaj had launches aimed at it, not from it. But, yeah, I know SpaceX got their first Falcon rocket launched from an island near there.

      There really aren't that many places on Earth you can watch orbital launches from. A dozen? 20? I doubt 20 and I sure couldn't name a dozen.

    5. Yes, Kwaj. Was there from June 1970 to June 1973, so got to watch Spartan and Sprint missile launches from Meck Island, about 1/2 the way north on the east lagoon edge between Kwaj and Roi-Namur. Ya know, Anti-Ballistic Missiles (that actually worked.)

      Spartans... You'd see a ballistic reentry vehicle come glowing westwardly toward the central lagoon from Vandenberg, see a Spartan launch, go down range, go further down range, a tad bit further down range and then 'boom' a hit or a HE warhead explodes. Parts still fall towards the central lagoon. (Spartan, long range ABM, multiple stages, slow compared to it's little brother Sprint, but radar guided and very accurate.)

      Sprint.... Oh, how quaint, yet another glowing reentry vehicle from Vandenberg. Why isn't any thing launching. Glowing object is getting closer, no launch, closer, no launch. Did something go wrong? Are we going to be actually hit, what could.. HOLY CRAP WHAT THE FRICK WAS THAT LANCE OF DOOM THAT JUST HIT THE REENTRY VEHICLE (sonic boom heard from 40 miles away...) (Sprint missile, short range interceptor, 0 to Mach 10+ in next to nothing, a raging cone of raging testosterone topped by an overly testosteroned nuclear warhead (or a simulated warhead.)) (They had initial problems with dealing with guidance due to the plasma formed by the overly screaming speeds the darned thing did.) (And what a cool darned missile! And I got to see them fired and hit!)

      So... Maybe not orbital launches, but still pretty darned exciting.

      Of course the really interesting thing was that Kwaj was/is an Army Base with an Air Force Liaison Officer who oversees Naval recovery teams using civilian submarines to recover the super-secret reentry vehicles and ABM pieces-parts. Of which we all knew happened, but weren't allowed to actually watch the civilian Perry Cubmarines piloted and supported by Naval assets on an Army barge under the titular not-command-but-command of the Air Force Liaison Officer (who was also in charge of taking the 3-month official radiation readings on the concrete cap over all the irradiated stuff at Eniwetok Atoll.)

      But all of that was 'back in the day.' Back in the day when we had a functioning ABM system before we got rid of them and then discovered that we needed them and had to build the modern ABM systems. And the later versions of the Sprints and Spartans were good enough to get an occasional contact kill.

      I think Meck was used for other missile launches in the 80's and 90's but since I wasn't there and it was pre-internet days, there's no idea and it's probably all secret squirrel stuff that none of us civilians need to know about. Because it's secret. Neat island, just basically one big concrete covered coral chunk for the most part.

      I was at Vandenberg in 68 and 69 to watch Minutemen blast off to go toss ballistic reentry vehicles at Kwaj lagoon, so I got to see both sides of the fun.

      Even got to stop off at Johnston Atoll. Didn't see much, as they covered the plane in tarps and had an air-stair covered in tarps that led to a buss covered in tarps that led to a shelter covered, yes, in tarps so they could unload stuff, probably in tarps, and people (not covered in tarps.) Then the whole process was reversed, people, stuff (yeah, probably covered in tarps) and then us throughout the whole covered in tarps stuff.

      So I can honestly say I've been to the only place accidentally bombed by the US with nukes.

      And to an actual 'active' ABM base (took a tour of Meck, which involved going there in an Army (maybe Air Force, as the Army was transferring them to the Air Force around that time) DeHavelland Buffalo, a really neat STOL plane.

      SpaceX launched from Omeluk Island, which is a little north, on the other side of one of the deep-water passes, from Meck. Instead of concreted Meck, it's just a quaint, grass and palm covered coral isle.

    6. Great stories!

      Never been there. As close as I get was that I was offered a job on Kwaj back in the early '90s, but it was at a time when other things going on in life made it really bad timing. A couple of years before or after would have worked out much better.

    7. It was, in the early 70's, very much late 40's in the feel. Small town, everyone knows each other, everyone rode bikes, no TV but movies both indoor in AC!!! and outdoors at the walk-in theater (very few cars...). Don't know how much it's changed, probably a lot with satellite everything and such. But it was very much Kwajberry RFD. Riding bikes or walking around with fishing poles, swimming in bomb craters, playing with exploded ordnance and such. Good place to be a kid. 10,000 ways to kill you, which they conveniently showed everyone when they first arrived in the briefing (kids watching like it's a catalog of fun, parents watching like it's a catalog of DEATH!!!! from coral to corals to snails to sea-shells to fish to unexploded ordinance.)