baltimoresun.com

« Dude! Huge waterspout captured on video | Main | NOAA weighs in with 2009 hurricane forecast »

May 20, 2009

Minotaur rocket launches ... finally

Orbital Sciences Corp. finally got its Minotaur 1 rocket (below, left) off the ground at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility yesterday evening. It carried an Air Force TacSat-3 technology satellite, a NASA biotech satellite and three other "birds" to orbit. It was only the third successful launch to orbit ever from the Eastern Shore.

Here's the YouTube video from the launch site.

NASA/WallopsAs advertised, the launch - 20 minutes late at 7:55 p.m. EDT - was visible from Baltimore, as well as Fall River, Mass. and many other locations from the mid-Atlantic states to New England.

The word is the satellites made it to orbit and were in contact with their creators.

But the rocket wasn't all that easy to spot from 115 miles away. My daughter and I posted outselves at the foot of Bond Street in Fells Point. When we saw nothing at the scheduled launch time of 7:35, we called home, got a Web check, and learned the liftoff was delayed to 7:55. When that time arrived, we scanned the southeast horizon. I got nothing, but very soon my daughter spotted the rocket's flame rising above Tide Point. When the long, thin, white contrail appeared, I finally picked it up. And, with binoculars, I followed the Minotaur much higher above the horizon than I expected - maybe 45 degrees - before I lost it.

If they had delayed liftoff until 9 or 10 p.m., and skies at the surface had been darker, I think we would have seen more. But we've had quite a few comments from readers saying they saw the launch just fine and got a kick out of it.

Matt Schroeder/Mt. Airy

Above is an image sent to me by Matt Schroeder, who photographed the launch from Mt. Airy. Here's what he had to say:

"Frank: My friend Ben called me around 7:50 p.m. tonight to tell me a rocket was about to be launched from Wallops Flight Facility.  My son Jacob (age 5) and I ran outside and looked to the southeast.  We live about 7 miles north of Mount Airy, Maryland.  Amazingly we saw the rocket as it sped into the sky!  Jacob thought that was pretty cool (and so did I) ...  After taking the picture I also noticed a small plane in the upper right side of the image. - Best regards, Matt Schroeder"

 

His shot is better than the ones I got with my point-and-shoot from downtown Baltimore (below). You can just barely make out the white smoke trail rising through the brown smog at the bottom-center of my image.

SUN PHOTO/Frank Roylance

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:24 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

Comments

You guys are driving me nuts! There have been more than 3 satellites from Wallops. Do a google search on "Scout Launch Vehicle"

FR: Looks like the commenter is correct. A NASA website counts 20 Scout launches to orbit at Wallops. It also lists the Conestoga launch in 1995, however. That one failed. I know because I was there. That makes me question how many of the 20 Scout launches listed also failed. Our criterion was "successful" launches to orbit. I'll try to get this clarified. Thanks to the reader.

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff
-- ADVERTISEMENT --

Sign up for FREE weather alerts*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for weather text alerts
SKY NOTES WEATHER

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Maryland Weather Center


Area Weather Stations
Resources and Sun coverage
• Weather news

• Readers' photos

• Data from the The Sun's weather station

• 2011 stargazers' calendar

• Become a backyard astronomer in five simple steps

• Baltimore Weather Archive
Daily airport weather data for Baltimore from 1948 to today

• National Weather Service:
Sterling Forecast Office

• Capital Weather Gang:
Washington Post weather blog

• CoCoRaHS:
Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. Local observations by volunteers

• Weather Bug:
Webcams across the state

• National Data Buoy Center:
Weather and ocean data from bay and ocean buoys

• U.S. Drought Monitor:
Weekly maps of drought conditions in the U.S.

• USGS Earthquake Hazards Program:
Real-time data on earthquakes

• Water data:
From the USGS, Maryland

• National Hurricane Center

• Air Now:
Government site for air quality information

• NWS Climate Prediction Center:
Long-term and seasonal forecasts

• U.S. Climate at a Glance:
NOAA interactive site for past climate data, national, state and city

• Clear Sky Clock:
Clear sky alerts for stargazers

• NASA TV:
Watch NASA TV

• Hubblesite:
Home page for Hubble Space Telescope

• Heavens Above:
Everything for the backyard stargazer, tailored to your location

• NASA Eclipse Home Page:
Centuries of eclipse predictions

• Cruise Critic: Hurricane Zone:
Check to see how hurricanes may affect your cruise schedule

• Warming World:
NASA explains the science of climate change with articles, videos, “data visualizations,” and space-based imagery.

• What on Earth:
NASA blog on current research at the space agency.
Most Recent Comments
Blog updates
Recent updates to baltimoresun.com news blogs
 Subscribe to this feed
Charm City Current
Stay connected