Launch tonight at 8:14 PDT

The launch time from Vandenberg has been announced: 8:14 pm. (it’s a classified payload so they announce launch times at the last possible minute)

As it happens, we’ll be dining with Hal of Blivet. So we’ll all watch together if we remember to go outside.

Sunset is at 8:07, so it won’t be as spectacular as the last launch… but there’s a chance that the rocket plume tail will be visible. (of course, I don’t know which direction the launch is in, and we’ve been having this nasty humid weather, so there’s much blechy cloudage right now. It might all come to naught)

UPDATE: So we (Doc M, Hal, Audrey and Ian and I) got to the viewing spot in Western Altadena at 8:14 (exactly) and looked west… and looked west… and looked west. Nothing. Tiny streak of white in the distance.

Hm, I wonder if it’s— Nope, looks like normal jet plane contrail, not like anything trying to escape earth’s gravity. Looked west, looked west, looked west. Then looked at watch. Nope. If it launched at 8:14, it takes all of 9 minutes or so to reach orbit, so we’d’ve seen it by now. Hm, wonder what happened? We shrugged— “maybe it got scrubbed… maybe it—” We didn’t know; we weren’t near anything that could tell us. So we stood around and shot the breeze.

Then, from out of the corner of my eye, I saw a plume rise above the low western ridge. Spectacular, there in the west.. lowest, it was gray and dull. Then a bit higher, it glowed in the sun… and then dissipated. Above where it trailed off, we saw a faint streak in the sky, one of those “you can barely make it out” but it was there. The rocket. As it continued, it developed that umbrella-ish fanning out I’ve come to associate with late-stage rocket burn. I was amazed that I could see that kind of detail with my naked eyes— I could call it when the first stage was about to go to main engine cut off. [correction from Doc M: I was calling solid rocket booster cutoff/burnoff and separation, not main engine cut off Nope. According to the Spaceflightnow status, at GMT 0337, MECO happened and then a new engine fired up in that same minute. Ha. I was right.] Then, a moment later, a new flash of brightness as the second stage or something fired up. But the second stage didn’t develop that continuous white glow that we saw the last time we watched a launch from this spot. Doc M had binoculars (and Hal got it on video) and when I watched it in binocs, I could make out three points of light… one “forward” (it reminded me of a cabin of a plane or spacecraft?!), and two aft. And then it faded out.

We all congratulated ourselves for hanging out. The status page describes what went down (er, or up). The delay in launch was to let winds die down. Ah. Okay. It launched at 8:33. Which is just as well. 8:14 was a bit too bright for good viewing. This was a bit better.