Tonight SpaceX launched a large weather satellite out of Vandenberg just after sunset. We know from experience that this can lead to some truly spectacular views in the Los Angeles area.
Since we’re now in a home at the top of a hill with a decent view to the west (Vandenberg is to our northwest and they’re launching to the south, so the rocket goes directly to the west of us) instead of one at the bottom of a hill (this hill, in fact) with the hill blocking the horizon to the west, I was hoping we would get some decent views. I was not disappointed.
With advance warning of the launch, I decided to try my first FaceBook Live streaming video of the launch. There were lessons learned and things to do better next time, but I think that it turned out pretty well all in all. You can watch it:
It starts as we’re about a minute or so before launch and in the background you can hear the audio from the SpaceX webcast. You’ll also hear the dulcet tones of me and my gravelly, nasal voice trying to give some sort of running commentary, and occasionally going a bit ape. Did I say that we had “decent” views? Try “spectacular” views!
You can fast forward to about 3:45 to when I first see the rocket coming up over the hill. At 5:05 the first stage shuts down, the stages separate, the second stage lights off and heads south to deliver the satellite to orbit, and the first stage starts puffing clouds of gas from the cold gas control thrusters as it maneuvers. (This whole thing is utterly amazing and colorful and freaked out more than a few people in LA who didn’t know what was going on.)
At 08:20 the first stage re-entry burn starts as the first stage slows and aims for landing back at Vandenberg. (It fell below the hill again after the burn ended so I couldn’t see the landing, but it did occur and was perfect.) From there on I follow the second stage and satellite, which was visible all the way to second stage engine cutoff!
That’s freaking amazing, just astonishing.
Enjoy the video, and if you’re in the LA area, keep an eye on the SpaceX feed (or on my FaceBook and/or Twitter feed) for the next dusk launch.
In ten years I would love to see these things be weekly events. In twenty I would love to see them daily.
We’re spreading off of this planet and becoming a multi-planetary species!