Just a month after photographing the launch of NASA’s Landsat Data Continuity Mission from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, I made my way to Florida’s Space Coast for the launch of the United States Air Force’s Space Based Infrared Systems (SBIRS) satellite. Like Landsat, SBIRS would launch on top of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in the 401 configuration, meaning the booster has no solid rocket motors.
For the launch, United Launch Alliance hosted its first tweetup, giving social media users an up close view of the launch, facility tours and a chance to speak with mission personnel. SpaceflightNow Editor Justin Ray and I joined the tweeters for the Monday morning session.
If you are interested in attending a future ULA Tweetup, follow them on Twitter @ulalaunch for announcements.
First on the agenda was a trip to the beach mound to witness the rollout of the Atlas V from the Vertical Integration Facility.
Following the rollout, we were taken to a spot just outside of the pad perimeter fence for a great, up close view of the 189ft tall rocket.
Our next stop was a visit to the Atlas Spaceflight Operation Center (ASOC) where we were treated to lunch and talks from various officials close to the mission.
A Tweetup participant records the event.
While the Tweetup continued along to the Range Control Center, we had to break away and head to remote camera setup at the launch pad. I set up four cameras in three different spots around the pad, including one just 150ft away from the towering rocket.
I had been looking forward to the nice evening light the launch would offer. Although the clouds had me worried, they would end up clearing out for launch day.
On launch day, my fears of an overcast launch were eased. The Atlas lifted off into the deep blue sky right on time at 5:21pm. About an hour after the launch we were cleared to go out to the pad to retrieve our remote cameras. All four of my cameras fired, providing some great shots of the launch!
My viewing location was from a causeway located 4.3 miles from the launch pad.
And that concludes another successful launch. My next launch is a Delta IV Medium currently scheduled for early May, followed by another Atlas V launch on May 15th. Sounds like a great way to celebrate my college graduation!
Most of the photos seen in this blog are available for purchase here.
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