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  • Minuteman II launch, 10/2/99
    berg this winter luckily All the best Andrew Thanks for the heads up we saw it very clearly here in Tucson The cattle did too they were totally unsettled Can t wait for the next one Kurt WOW That was quite the launch Still an eerie trail brightly lit up in the clear autumn sky Since the Marshalls are so near the equator I suspected this Minute man would have a bit of a southerly trajec tory and it did Saw it from western Huntington Beach all the way to MECO I think you d be hard pressed to find anyone who didn t see this one G Neil orac megsinet net We were on the North side of the base near an access gate the Minuteman appeared from behind a small hill It was incredibly bright and loud As it gained altitude it left a very vivd red white and blue trail It certainly made the drive to Lopoc worth it Ron Röhrenbacher Pomona CA The Röhrenbachers also provided Sky Lights with some spectacular still and video photographs RRohrenb aol com Photo of M II launch first stage burn photo by Bryan Röhrenbacher Photo of M II launch second stage rainbow exhaust photo by Bryan Röhrenbacher First stage burn photo by Ron Röhrenbacher Second stage burn some rainbow effect photo by Ron Röhrenbacher Third stage above the atmosphere exhaust trail color intensifies photo by Ron Röhrenbacher Marc and Ron Röhrenbacher have also provided a series of video clips Try em out and let us know what you think I ve noticed that Windows 95 media viewers don t seem to handle this movie format very well I get a message about a missing YUV9 decompressor A friend suggests downloading the latest Windows Media Player then installing it and restarting your computer This didn t work for me unfortunately It may only work if you use Internet Explorer clip 1 1 8M clip 2 1 6M clip 3 1 6M clip 4 1 6M clip 5 1 1M Five friends from the bay area came screaming down here Saturday at the mere mention of a rocket launch We went down to Guadalupe Dunes Beach about 2 miles north of Point Sal and 4 miles Northwest of the launchsite much closer than the media viewing area next to the weather station which looks to scale out at about 8 9 miles away see map Low foggy clouds were threatening to cover the whole area but thanks to my visiting guru we were able to maintain reasonable visibility until after the launch The only part we missed was the blast off which usually is a bright orange Due to one large dark gray blob sitting right on the ground between us and the launch pad we didn t even see a hint of a glow Precisely at 7 01 05 the rocket appeared just over the gray blob and we had a beautifully clear view until it went out of sight The

    Original URL path: http://www.socal-skylights.org/sky_19991002.html (2016-04-29)
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  • SoCal Sky Lights: A Vandenberg Tour
    or chef salad during which the tour guide narrates a slide show of some of the good stuff that the tour does NOT take you to see In particular they do not drive you over to South Base where SLC 6 the stillborn shuttle facility resides the tiny solid fuelled Lockheed Martin Launch Vehicle renamed Athena now launches from a stool on top of SLC 6 Instead you get slides of this gargantuan facility which is 15 miles away After lunch we went out to the lawn on the east side of the restaurant facility Our guide turned up her radio and we listened to the various prelaunch events for the GT 167 Minuteman launch to Kwajalein There is no counting backwards just a sporadic litany of events culminating in the call first stage ignition No exclamation point The call was just another event I heard the call but nobody else seemed to I echoed it and everyone started swivelling their heads to try and find the missile A 1 500 foot overcast had moved in so there wasn t much time to view the missile as it punched into the clouds I saw it for perhaps 1 2 second Then there was only a short column of solid rocket fuel smoke only slightly whiter than the clouds The most surprising thing to me was that there was nothing hush hush about the launch time The published window was 1 01 7 01 PM When I called in a couple of days before I was cheerfully told that the launch was scheduled for 1 00 Sure enough it came off a minute or two before that I guess it s just the military satellite launches that are played close to the vest Missile tests are apparently always scheduled to go

    Original URL path: http://www.socal-skylights.org/sky_vafb_9806.html (2016-04-29)
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  • SoCal Sky Lights: Recent Launches
    of the road to watch I was able to see the booster separation the bright flash and the multi colored contrail twisting formation was visible for about 45 minutes afterwards Clark Cook Rocklin Ca September 19 2002 Time 7 31 PM A Minuteman III test This was another readiness test flight Since the flight occurred shortly after sunset and as the Minuteman III is a solid fuel rocket that leaves copious opaque exhaust the launch left blazingly spectacular evidence in the sky for hundreds of miles SoCal SkyLights added approximately 100 new subscribers in the 48 hours surrounding this launch as hundreds of curious viewers asked Google what the heck had just lit up the sky in this manner Here are a few observations My fiance and I live in Montara about 15 miles south of San Francisco on the coast We were out walking the dogs around 1930 PDT when she noticed what looked to be a comet out over the ocean west from us moving somewhat slowly in what looked to be from left to right northerly We had no idea what it was and I became very fearful that the gods were angry with our clan Fortunately my fiance is the daughter of a rocket scientist and so assured me that though the god was angry it could be appeased with some sacrifice in the form of doing the dishes or taking her out to dinner The object was a small bright ball bright like the landing lights on a jet and there was a sizable fan shaped tail spraying at an angle of approximately 7 o clock as opposed to a long comet tail There were no visible contrails behind the object but we were in a coastal grove and trees blocked our site to the south We watched and speculated on the object for about 30 seconds when all of the sudden it blew up and all traces of the object disappeared The explosion looked like a dim white firework but no report As we walked further on our view south opened up and we could see the ragged wind swept contrails stretching south I am glad that the angry god is gone and we ate left overs for dinner Geoffrey Davis Montara CA RUSS Gee I wonder if I could use that Angry God ploy on my spouse 8 I shot the enclosed photo shortly after sunset from Pahrump NV Was this a missle test Unfortunately I was a couple of hundred yards from the house and had to run get the camera By the time I was able to get this pic the truly impressive explosion halo had dissipated Copyright 2002 Timothy Carter BTW we were looking due west at the time Timothy Carter Pahrump NV RUSS I don t think there was an explosion per se It was probably just the staging of the missile that caused the transient flash and expanding ring of gases that you saw This shot was taken Thurs evening from my yard here in Bakersfield CA Photo Copyright 2002 Fred M Alexis On Sept 19 around 7 40 PM local time I observed a launch while visiting the South Rim of the Grand Canyon The event was about 50 minutes after local sunset but the trail from the rocket was apparently still in full sunlight as it remained brightly illuminated all the way down to the horizon I managed to get a shot of the trail with my digital camera The launch was in the general direction of Nellis or Vandenberg AFB Back in Las Vegas where we were staying no news of a launch was heard Vandenberg is almost 500 miles from Grand Canyon Village so I thought that a closer launch facility was more likely but of course it wasn t Photo Copyright 2002 Gerald O Hearn The rocket was visible for over 1 minute and I suspect that it was multistage Before losing sight of the vehicle it had risen to about 30 degrees above the horizon I noticed the launch too late to witness 1st stage separation if this did occur Gerald O Hearn Grand Canyon Village AZ As you can imagine our kids ages 11 and 13 were awestruck at the light show put on by the Minuteman launch from Vandenberg We live in Bakersfield and were at a function at my daughter s school and everyone wound up outside staring at the sky We had no idea what it was some folks in the crowd mentioned the possibility of a missile but most of us were completely bewildered Someone in the crowd said it must be the aurora borealis I thought that was a kick The next morning we were dying to find some info and hopefully some pictures of what we d seen Found your site via Google and it s great Dennis and Mary Newman Bakersfield CA I was on my way back home from the L A county fair and I heard about the Minuteman III Missile Launch that was to occur sometime on September 19 2002 I did not take the launch seriously but I wish I had I was on the 15 freeway when the launch occured I am guessing I was going South and I never knew about the rocket that flew in the west at that time until I decided to go to Jack in the Box in Mira Loma CA off Limonite When I got out of my car there was the brightest trail I have ever seen lit up by the sun in the upper atmosphere It was red on the bottom and hit BRIGHT white at the top accompanied by a rainbow or colors in the high atmosphere I was like WHOA Look at that It caught alot of people s attention and certainly did mine As the minutes went passed the trail diminished quite quickly to my surprise until it was gone Man what a sight wish I saw the whole thing but something is better than nothing you all have to agree Brian Martin Mira Loma CA July 17 2002 Time 1 01 AM to 7 00 AM A Minuteman III test This is a regular test of the launch guidance and tracking systems I live in Ontario CA A group of us decided to meet in a parking lot at 1AM PDT We all got there on time The rocket was seen at 1 05AM coming through the clouds It was VERY dim Probably magnitude was no brighter than 0 It continued very slowly up to about 30 degrees until it burned out I saw the 1st stage separation and the second stage ignite about halfway into the launch On March 15 2002 I saw the another Minuteman launch only it was in the evening I mean it was great My question to myself was Why was the missile at 60 degrees or higher before flickering out during the March launch and this time it was only at 30 degrees Kevin Martin Ontario CA June 24 2002 Time 11 22 AM A Titan 2 launching a civilian NOAA meteorological satellite Note that the Titan 2 engines do not produce much visible light nor are the exhaust products particularly conspicuous You have to be pretty close to the launch site to catch a Titan 2 flight As expected the Titan was a no show in the skies over San Diego The only way I got a good view of this flight was on NASA TV Russ I was on the telephone and heard that distinctive rumble Looked out my front window and saw the thick contrail grow as the rumble increased My windows rattled Anita Lompoc CA June 7 2002 Time apx 1 20 AM A Minuteman III operational test flight toward Kwajalein Island The Minuteman launch was very nice to see I used my 10x70 glasses and you can see the various stages fall away They appeared to blink brightly against the dark sky when the red hot nozzles were pointed in my direction When the first stage burned out and the second stage ignited there was only a short time before there was another apparent staging Is this an interstage that is being jettisoned or is it a nose shroud that is being let go cannot see why the second stage should burn for such a short time Dave Close Central Valley CA Copyright 2002 by Granville Swope Nipomo CA May 4 2002 Time 2 54 58 3 04 58 AM A Delta II carried a NASA EOS satellite into orbit Very nice SRB s very pretty in 10X70 binoculars Dave Close Central Valley CA Just happened to wake up a bit after 2am and drug my self out of bed I saw a bright light streak across the western sky for about 45 seconds then suddenly out of sight Due to the time of the mission no view of an exhaust trail just a bright light in the sky Nothing spectacular enough to take a photo Ron Röhrenbacher Pomona CA NMD launch vehicle exhaust as seen from Arcadia CA copyright 2002 by Edouard Schmidtlin NMD launch vehicle exhaust from Arcadia CA a little later copyright 2002 by Edouard Schmidtlin March 15 2002 Time apx 6 20 PM Rainbow exhaust trail Venus and the new moon right to left copyright 2002 by Gina Pisello NMD target launcher s exhaust trail copyright 2002 by William Tasca More exhaust trail photos A modified Minuteman II hurled a simulated nuclear warhead along with several decoy balloons toward Kwajalein Atoll in the south Pacific This is in support of the National Missile Defense program We have reports from similar launches on 7 7 2000 and 10 2 1999 Because the launch took place shortly after sunset it yielded some very satsifactory viewing but not from where I was in San Diego there was too much cloud cover Here are some reports from Sky Lights followers Due to the good weather conditions in Phoenix AZ this shot was the most visible longer time of viewing brightest etc However until about 15 minutes after launch the view artifact was pretty much a monochrome off white None of the blue and green glow on the way up Was all set to photograph using an 8 scope but couldn t find the little attachment ring from DigiScope Put me in a bad mood but the actual view through 20x80 binos was impressive While viewing this striking phenomenon I was aware that a few neighbors were active with family activities The ones that caught my attention were like saying to children Get in the car we are already late Also traffic in front of me was unbelievable Cars passing slow moving others when the slower was going 45 mph in a 25 mph zone I can t imagine being a 5 8 year old child going out to the car under similar conditions and not screaming Mom Dad what s that I would guess that during this event I had within my range of vision from 65 to 150 individuals I would be very surprised if any of them witnessed the event It looks like the current crop of kids and their parents live in a world that is dominated by a grotesque form of tunnel vision Robin Wier Phoenix Arizona My daughter who lives in Apache Junction AZ and I both watched the March 15 2002 target vehicle launch at the same time I live in Cypress CA We were on the phone at the time She was on her cell phone and I mentioned seeing a strange light in the sky We were amazed to be seeing the same thing Mary McKinney Cypress CA We had a great chance to see it as the skies were quite clean and we had a Friday evening party to attend in a large west facing parking lot near the 210 Freeway Son Brian said There it is and there it was heading south with a bright white tail It passed Venus and seemed aimed for the sliver of moon We saw two grains of rice fall off boosters and shortly after a bloom of white further ignition The cone of white became a circle and missile seemed to stay put That I m guessing was a turn to the west It s always a bit disappointing when the flame dies We stayed outside for quite a while enjoying the party and occasionally looked up to the slow transformation and spectrum of the higher part of the trail Very Good Show Some in the crowd were JPL folk who were not quite as jazzed as I but satisfied nonetheless Dave Cuatt Pasadena CA Got home from work grabbed my camcorder and ran outside just in time to video the MM II launch From my front yard in Long Beach I could see the SRB s falling away while the target continued to climb on its way to Kwajalein Another really good show from what is reported to be a successful test I can t wait for the next one 3 months down the road Steve Harte Long Beach CA February 11 2002 Time 9 43 44 AM A Delta II carrying five replacement Iridium satellites The 5 second launch window was typical for an Iridium mission It makes it easy for us to watch The launch was delayed from Friday February 8 by a wind gust Good thing too A solid cloud cover would have prevented the ability to view the launch from here in San Diego Delayed a second time from 2 9 due to a problem with tracking aircraft And yet again from 2 10 due to a fuel sensor problem As usual from San Diego you could see the vehicle starting at around 30 seconds into the air lit SRB burn around 1 30 into the flight The sky was too hazy to follow the launch once the SRBs were jettisoned at a little after 2 minutes into the flight Saw it from work in Palmdale less than spectacular albeit a successful mission Hooray for a good mission and for Iridium Steve Harte Delta climbs into the sky Copyright 2001 by Ron Röhrenbacher December 7 2001 Time 7 07 35 AM Wind distorts Delta s exhaust trail Copyright 2001 by Ron Röhrenbacher A Delta II launcher orbited two scientific satellites JASON carrying oceanographic instruments and TIMED carrying atmospheric instruments The launch was visible from San Diego for about 30 seconds while the air lit solid rocket boosters were still running After solid boosters were exhausted and jettisoned the vehicle disappeared in the morning sky We drove out to the Dunes of Pismo Beach for our launch viewing pleasure It was an absolutely beautiful morning with an offshore breeze blowing the mist back over the incoming breakers as 100 s of pelicans surfed the air being pushed up by the waves as they made there way North up the coast The Delta sat atop a bright flame which was followed by a smoke column that started off semi orange then white as the direct sunlight hit it then almost a blue as it made its way towards space I could clearly see all 6 ground lit SRB s tumble in symphony back down towards the ocean I would love to get my hands on one of those I was able to track her for quite sometime after MECO with my binoculars due to the crystal clear air conditions Very well done golf clap Todd Walker Grover Beach First things first if you decide to spend the evening in Lompoc the night before a launch MAKE RESERVATIONS I m glad I did The place was packed Most hotels had flyers in their lobbies The weather was absolutely beautiful I found a spot on the North side of the base that you could see the launch pad with a nicely lit half Moon above it The Delta was visible poised for launch through binoculars A matter of minutes before the launch I could hear announcements being made over the PA system And then I heard the countdown very clearly The Delta rose with a brilliant orange flame You could see the ejection of the strap on booster with the naked eye As they tumbled away the sunlight flickered off the fuselage all the way down Due to the breeze and the angle of the Sun there wasn t much color in the contrail being that close But it did provide for some great patterns to watch All in all it was a great day to watch a launch Ron Röhrenbacher Pomona There was a clean clear view of the Delta Launch while driving west on Pasadena s Washington Boulevard I saw a fast climbing contrail curving southerly At the top of the arc contrail disappeared Thanks again for the advance notice Dave Cuatt Pasadena I went outside with my brother Brian at 7 05 AM and we awaited the 7 07 35 AM launch of the Delta II rocket At 7 08 00 AM exactly my brother spotted the rocket contrail The flame was visible from here in Ontario California The rocket was easily visible as it made its way southward After the contrail stopped moving we had figured out that the Delta Rocket has lost all of its SRB s and remained burning its first stage engine We got back inside and our mom was watching the news of the live launch and just to think we saw that exact launch from here that was on the TV close up Truly amazing Kevin and Brian Martin Ontario November 7 2001 Time 12 15 AM Minuteman III missile on a flight readiness test mission designation GT 176GM Launch at approx 12 15 AM Saw what appeared to be four stages Dave Central Valley October 18 2001 Time 11 51 26 AM A Delta II launcher carrying a high resolution commercial imaging satellite QuickBird 2 When I arrived in the area the coast around the base had thick clouds and fog I headed north and stopped across the street from the tracking station which had clear skies The Delta appeared in the South out of the clouds with a brilliant orange flame During the early stage of the flight it was clear enough to see the Delta body itself It maintained an almost vertical flight into to a slow turn and disappeared from sight About 5 to 10 minutes afterwards parts of the exhaust trail began to glow with gentle radiance of blue Ron Röhrenbacher Just got home was at Jalama Thursday GREAT LAUNCH Clear sky good view nice sound I could see the boosters drop off with glasses Thanks SO much Dave Davis October 4 2001 Time 2 21 PM A Titan IV which probably carried a classified optical surveillance satellite We parked near the South Gate to Vandenberg on Union Sugar Road in a spot where we could see the top of the tower on the pad probably less than two miles from the rocket The thin cloud layer only allowed us to see a few seconds of the launch but we didn t complain at all It was cool to see the rocket punch through the cloud and the flame slowly follow it through then the clouds and smoke swirling down afterwards The shadow from the smoke plume left a shadow trail on the clouds we could follow right over our heads then curving South The sound was absolutely incredible everything was shaking and bouncing for quite sometime Somebody nearby said That was definitely worth the 3 hour drive Todd Walker Pismo Beach I went outside at AF plant 42 in Palmdale just in time to see a stunning launch of the Titan IV Even from perhaps 80 miles away as the crow flies I could see a brilliant orange flame and smoke contrail for perhaps 1 1 2 minutes Even a worker in from Florida who has seen many launches before was entertained A really good show I only wish I was closer Steve Harte Wow Pasadena skies were a bit hazy but clear enough to see a contrail rise f a s t and what might have been stage separation good fun Dave Cuatt I wasn t even gonna go out to try and see it under hazy skies from here in Riverside California But I got my binoculars anyway and went out front 1 minute before launch The launch happened and I looked and waited for a few seconds to see it Nothing at all After about 1 min 30 sec I saw it It was visible for about 15 20 more seconds and the flame was visible BRIGHT orange Then the flame turned reddish in color and disappeared leaving the exhaust trail Behind WOW I couldnt believe I would see it from here Kevin Martin September 21 2001 Time 11 49 30 AM A Taurus failed to launch a commercial imaging satellite Orbview 4 a scientific satellite carrying an ozone mapping instrument and some cannisters of cremated human remains at 5 300 per lipstick sized container A deviation from nominal trajectory occurred at the first staging and this appears to have consumed too much energy for the payloads to achieve orbit The launch was not visible from San Diego Taurus is a relatively small and fast moving vehicle and the noon time lighting was not ideal for best visibility Russ Not visible from Pasadena Haze interference Dave Cuatt Tried to see the Launch From Riverside at school but didnt happen due to hazy skies On the other hand My Friend In The San Gabriel Mountains called me to say he saw the rocket probably at 2nd stage under binoculars Note He said it was a very small Target though but still was cool to see Kevin Martin My love and I went to the parking lot at Pirates Cove to watch the launch After the second stage went we noticed the contrail curved downward as if the rocket was trying to correct its path An Orbital employee called it hypersonic stunt flying Now the officials say the launch was a complete failure and the satellites probably burned up before making a complete orbit along with the human remains that were onboard Todd Walker Pismo Beach September 8 2001 Time 8 25 AM An Atlas IIAS launch vehicle with a recon payload We left Riverside for the Santa Ynez Mountains at 4 45am PDT At around 8 00am we arrived at the Peak of the Santa Ynez Mountains where we met Brian Webb and a few other observers At around 8 10am we anxiously awaited the lift off of the Atlas 2A Rocket looking West Southwest Launch occured exactly 1 minute after the actual scheduled time but not until 15 seconds after launch did we see the Rocket expose itself upon the tops of the thick layered fog below At T 65 seconds second stage of the Atlas Rocket burst into a bright orange flame 2 times brighter and larger than the ground boosters heading southward When the air lit solid boosters burned out the trail from the liquid fuel engines was more diffuse and no flame was visible After the vapor trail the Atlas 2A Rocket had dissapeared we lost sight of it due to the height and distance of the rocket as it soared behind the thick blue layer of the Atmosphere 5 minutes after we lost sight of it you could hear the rocket s sound wave as it broke though the sound barrier making a thunderous noise for about 20 seconds followed by the roar of the engines After that we packed up and went for home A real great sight it was Wishing you all clear skies Brian and Kevin Martin Riverside California About this mornings launch I couldn t see a thing from the central valley too much smog and smoke from all of the fires burning throughout the State Dave July 27 2001 Time 1 01 AM A Peacekeeper missile on a flight readiness test mission designation GT 30 PA Regarding the Peacekeeper MX launch on Friday morning Me and a few friends decided to go out to an abandoned missile tracking station we found near the base and watch the launch from there This site gives a great direct view of a lot of launch complexes not the northern ones however The weather was very foggy so we couldnt see much of anything it was also very very dark However the signature roar of a Peacekeeper was enticing enough to get us to stay around for the launch As we sat around talking EVERYTHING lit up at once I guess fog difuses light well because we couldnt tell where the orangish glow was coming from I wish I had brought a video camera because the effect was very cool Not only was the entire sky glowing in complete silence but the solid motor produced a flickering fading glow giving the effect of a distant sun slowly flickering away to darkness As the light dimmed we heard the thump of the missle being ejected and its roar to life as the sound waves eventually reached us Even though we didnt actually see the missile the entire sky uniformly lighting up then slowly dying away over the course of a minute was very very cool The odd weather conditions we get around here always make launches unpredictable and visually exciting I still love the last 3 missile defense tests they ve all been spectacular in one way or another Steve Arriola After watching a concert at the Mid State Fair my soul mate and I were trying to decide whether to watch the launch from Cuesta Grade or go to Guadalupe Dunes and risk a fog layer We made the decision to go to the dunes to get the best of the Audio portion of the show When we got there we found ourselves covered in a fog layer about 100 feet above our heads Not knowing what to expect visually we took our place in front of our vehicle and waited less than a minute before we noticed some overall brightness to the previously pitch black area Suddenly it was daytime as the light from the very bright Peacekeeper refracted through the entire fog bank from horizon to horizon At first I was in shock something didn t seem right as it was just too bright I looked around and noticed all the crops some cows my honey s beautiful face in a look of total bewilderment and for a couple of seconds I thought this was it the world was coming to an end the missile goofed and was going to kill us dead The cows had the same feeling as they were all giving off general distress moos to one another After about 6 seconds of this phenomenon the light began to flicker out just as a loud POOF was heard as if somebody popped a cork off a giant champagne bottle the steam powered launch phase of the Peacekeeper out of the silo and then main engine start and the rumbling from hell begins it just never gets old Several savory seconds of bone jarring rumble are thoroughly enjoyed As the rumbling resides slightly the sky turns to day again as the second stage gets going and is followed several seconds later by more determined rumbling After all was silent for a moment the third stage starts up and another few seconds of further rumblings are soaked in Although we never saw the flame or the missile itself the visual phase of this launch was a definite bonus surprise I could only imagine what it would of looked like from the grade high above the fog layer Todd Walker Pismo Beach CA Hi I live in Riverside California and we headed out to see the Peacekeeper missile launch at 7 45 PM Our target was the Santa Ynez Mts At 11 00 PM we got to the base of the mountains on Refugio Road We countinued up the mountain until we came across an observatory The gate was closed but we opened it not knowing what was up the road We proceeded 500 feet and discovered an observatory We parked our car at the observatory gates and waited for the launch We had 1 hour left I had no idea that the observatory served Vandenberg Air Force Base until I heard the 2 of them talking on a loud radio inside the observatory The voice said 5 4 3 2 1 mark T 60 min At 1 00 30 AM we got very excited hearing the countdown of 30 seconds At 5 4 3 2 1 Liftoff In the distance we saw the fog light up like a small sunrise 7 seconds later the missile came through the fog layer with a bright white flame It was beautiful Then at T 40 seconds the missile shut off its engine I knew something was wrong because 2 minutes later I saw the missile hit the ocean and a giant flash when it hit appeared After that we headed home and we will be back up there on Aug 21 for the Taurus Launch Anyone care to join us Kevin Martin Riverside July 14 2001 Time 7 40 PM A Minuteman II missile lobbing a dummy warhead and decoys toward Kwajalein Atoll in a test of a National Missile Defense ground launched kinetic kill system More details on this program are available here The launch took place at around sunset leaving a nice exhaust trail colored by the diffraction of sunlight through ice crystallized on the rocket exhaust particulates Just wanted to take a minute to thank you for keeping us posted about these delightful happenings My husband and I are senior citizens who own operate a motel in Lucerne Valley California in the high desert between Apple Valley and Big Bear resorts We get too busy to sit in a chair and watch for a 3 4 hour span but about 9 05 p m my husband spotted the beautiful coloring in the sky and called me to hurry outside We took our cordless phone with us and phoned our son and family who live nearby and some other neighbors You re right It is a spectacular sight Thank you Pat and Don Ron Röhrenbacher took this photo of the exhaust trail from Pomona CA February 7 2001 12 01 AM A Minuteman III missile on a flight readiness test mission November 21 2000 10 24 AM A Delta II carrying a scientific satellite consisting of various experimental and earth resources packages EO 1 SAC C Citizen Explorer Munin This satellite was placed in the same orbit as Landsat 7 very nearby The idea is to correlate data between the two platforms September 28 2000 1 01 AM TWO Minuteman III missiles My sweetie and I packed up the truck and headed for Guadalupe Dunes from Paso Robles at 11 30 pm and arrived in my favorite pitch black vegetable patch at 12 45 am located 2 or 3 miles from the actual launch silos The weather was absolutely ideal with only a thin band of stratocumulus clouds hanging over the hills between us and the launch site It was a touch cold but the heat from my engine made the hood a perfect place to sit back and enjoy the show After hearing reports on the news and such I didn t expect them both to go off at the same time as they stated there should be a couple of hours between the two launches I believe the first missile was from a silo in Montana and the second from a silo in Wyoming 1 01 am happens The layer of strato lights up beautifully as the initial flame that proceeds the missile s exit from the silo blasts out of the hole 2 seconds later as the Minuteman III traversed through the cloud layer you could make out shadows from clouds closer to the missile move from top to bottom on clouds closer to us it was totally breathtaking and I had already got my moneys worth without even seeing a lick of flame The moment before the flame became visible I looked around real quick and noticed how bright everything was and realized it was just like watching a sunrise in fast motion Then the flame appeared and both her and I gasped and held our breaths It seemed much brighter than the Minuteman II back in July and I swear I could feel heat from it similar to the heat you feel when you re at a rock concert and the pyrotechnic guy pushes the side stage explosions button As the flame went from intensely bright yellow to a more oxygen deprived orange moments later the familiar rumble started up and gathered strength for a few glorious seconds of missile addict bliss At it s peak it sounded like sustained thunder from a lightning blast directly overhead Separation comes with a puff of sparks and debris and the familiar tumbling blinking first stage falls to the ocean nearby I m starting to think there is a light attached to this for either recovery or safety The sound subsides after stage 3 fires up and accelerates the hopefully dummy warhead to its Mach 23 cruising speed I wonder who s in charge of making sure it s a dummy An unseen cow moos her launch approval and we both commence breathing again No spectacular plume as you predicted but that didn t matter that much after that show We slid off the hood hugged and headed home full of adrenaline and set a date to watch the Delta II together in November this girl is a dream come true We get home at 2 30 and decided we would go outside at 3 01 am to see if 2 goes up Sure enough we both see the sky light up and seconds later get the show again from 69 miles away The missile seemed much faster this time since we were viewing the trajectory from a perpendicular perspective Gawd I love this stuff MORE MORE MORE Todd Walker Paso Robles CA August 17 2000 4 45 PM A Titan IV The Titan IV is the largest booster that flies out of Vandenberg It usually carries an optical or electronic signal reconnaisance payload to a near polar orbit While flying on its solid rocket boosters the Titan IV is easily viewed from a very long distance I was easily able to watch this launch from my home in San Diego for the last 30 seconds of the first stage burn Initially all I saw was a white exhaust trail emerging from behind my neighbor s house As the vehicle climbed into thinner atmosphere the exhaust trail began to expand and thin out and the glowing exhaust flames grew brighter and brighter Then the flame and exhaust faded and the boosters were jettisoned I was surprised to find that I could see linear flashes as the boosters tumbled At first I thought this must be the sun reflecting off the boosters Now I realize that it must have been very long residual flame jets from the engines two reasons first those boosters are too far away for me to see them as anything but points second if these were sunlight reflections I would have been able to see them much of the way to the ground instead they faded and quickly disappeared Nice launch Russ From Pasadena City College it was a bit difficult to take looking into a very bright western haze Still it was a thrill to see the launch Viewing party consisted of myself and the honorable Douglas Haines

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