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Night Launch

Don't know how many more night launches there will be for the Shuttle, I've never seen one up close, it's 90% go weather wise for the flight tonight, and everything else seems on track, so we're going to drive up and stay in Orlando tonight. Blogging may be light until the morrow, when I'll be coming back down (Patricia has business up there).


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Big D wrote:

Must have been some heavy cloud cover, they switched to the tank cam early on and never switched back.

lmg wrote:

From New Jersey: Since I couldn't sleep I stayed up to watch the shuttle launch on TV. Five minutes after launch I went out on the deck where I had my 15X70 binoculars set up on a tripod. It was mostly cloudy, but I decided to try anyway. About 2 minutes later I saw it, low over the trees to the southeast, through the clouds. It was moving very fast toward the left. The engine exhaust looked like a small, bright orange comet. (The orange color is due to atmospheric dimming. In reality the color is bright white.) It cut off after about 5 seconds, then there were some brief flashes, and a very bright orange flash about 2 seconds long as the external tank separated. A few more seconds and I lost it behind the house. Total time was about 15 seconds.

Rand Simberg wrote:

It was a heavy cloud cover, unfortunately. We saw it lift from the pad, and after ten or fifteen seconds, it disappeared through the clouds, and things grew dark again, other than the glow of the smoke through the floodlights. I think it muffled the sound somewhat, too. It was disappointing, but at least I can say that I've seen a night launch.

Paul F. Dietz wrote:

Have they relaxed the visibility requirements for launch? I thought after the Columbia loss they wanted things to be visible to high resolution cameras for much of the early launch.

Rand Simberg wrote:

Have they relaxed the visibility requirements for launch?

Apparently. Perhaps they are confident enough in the on-board cameras now (plus they probably have chase above the clouds, though I don't know how good a picture they can get from them).

Leland wrote:

Perhaps they are confident enough in the on-board cameras now (plus they probably have chase above the clouds, though I don't know how good a picture they can get from them).

We are pretty confident with ISS imagery really. The ET camera is HD now, but after SRB seperation, there wasn't much to see. Then again, after 2 minutes, debris tends to fall straight back rather than laterally to strike at high incident angles. Most of the serious debris strikes happen in the first 60 seconds.

The first 2 RTF flights had high altitude chase planes, but none since then.

Wing inspection with the OBSS begins tonight.

lmg wrote:

This may be a good place to ask this question. We see from the ET camera that during the last 20 seconds before MECO the orbiter seems to be surrounded by flame, as if the engine exhaust forms a bubble around the shuttle. After MECO, and after ET sep, this bubble flashes randomly for several seconds. The flashes are bright enough to see from the ground. Question: What (the heck) is going on? What IS that?

Leland wrote:


When the vehicle reaches altitude, there isn't air pressure to keep the engine plume pinned back. The higher the vehicle goes, the wider the plume gets. This phenomenon was the rationale behind the X-33 aerospike engines. So the bubble you see is the wide SSME plume. It wobbles near the end as the OMS burn assist stops just prior to MECO. The flashes are the RCS jets firing to move the Orbiter away from the ET.

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on March 10, 2008 1:08 PM.

Am I Happy That Spitzer Is Resigning? was the previous entry in this blog.

Why Is Earth Here? is the next entry in this blog.

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