Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour STS-127

Video of the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour seen from across Banana Creek near the Apollo/Saturn V Center.

Crank your speakers up!

We traveled to Kennedy Space Center several times to see the launch of this mission, because of delays. It was delayed in June due to technical difficulties with the hydrogen fueling system. This week the delays were due to thunderstorms. The last time we were present was for Saturday's launch attempt. It was scrubbed within 10 minutes of launch. We repurchased tickets to the NASA Causeway viewing area, which is 5.5 miles from the launch pad. The tickets are orange. Some of our friends came back on Monday, but the launch was scrubbed again. They bought more orange tickets. Today NASA offered orange ticket holders a unique opportunity. We were able to view the launch from the VIP area by the Apollo Center 3.5 miles from the launch pad!

Our persistence paid off. This was a once in a lifetime experience.

More photos of the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour for mission STS-127.

Launch Viewing Area At Banana Creek

(Click on photos for larger images.)

The VIP launch view area at Banana Creek. The square building in the background is the Apollo/Saturn V Center.

It was raining as we approached Kennedy Space Center (KSC). There was hardly any traffic and no security checkpoints. We were texting our friends that we were meeting at the launch. The New Jersey Kid had rescheduled his plane ticket again. The Orlando Crew also repurchased orange launch viewing tickets to go back to the NASA Causeway to see the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour. We met at the Launch Status Center where we watched NASA TV. A KSC spokesperson talked about launch updates, explained mission details, and answered questions.

Lightning advisories cleared personnel from the exterior of the launch pad, and people at the Visitor Center were advised to move indoors. It was raining so hard at the launchpad that we couldn't see the space shuttle on NASA TV. Yet there was hardly any rain were we were. All the while they were continuing to ingress the astronauts into the space shuttle. Then it was announced that the NASA Causeway was closed due to lightning advisories. What a disappointment.

Our KSC spokesperson was getting updates through an earbud. She nodded and smiled. "You folks are in for a treat. NASA has never done this before. Orange ticket holders are going to have the unprecedented opportunity to go to the VIP viewing area by the Apollo/Saturn V Center."

They were expecting the heavy weather to pass by launch time.

I was so excited I was jumping up and down! I've been to the Apollo/Saturn V Center many times and thought how lucky I would be to be able to see a launch from that close. The historical meaning of the location also hit me. There aren't as many people here today, partly because many gave up due to all the delays. Also, the real VIP's are arriving tomorrow for the 40th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11. Endeavour is launching from the same launchpad today used to launch Apollo 11 to land the first people on the moon 40 years ago. I got goosebumps.

The crowd at Banana Creek had some interesting toys. Here someone has a parabolic microphone. Both launchpads LC39B (left) and LC39A with Endeavour (right) are on the horizon.

Launchpad LC39B is undergoing reconstruction for use in the new Constellation Program. You can see a crane in the background. It will not be used for space shuttles anymore. This launchpad will be used to test the new Ares rocket at the end of August '09. (Update: The Ares test has been rescheduled for October '09.)

Space Shuttle Endeavour is on the other side of the tower. You can see the orange External Fuel Tank and the tips of the Solid Rocket Boosters.

Here's an interesting contraption we saw by the Apollo/Saturn V Center. We think it is a telescope on a trailer.

One of the countdown clocks shows the 9 minute hold. There are several "holds" built in to the countdown clock, which starts early in the day. These holds allow launch teams to hold meetings prior to events or steps taking place. For example, there's a hold in the clock before fueling to allow the fueling team to have a meeting first, and there's a hold before the astronauts get onboard the shuttle. The Nine Minute Hold is the last hold before lift-off and it seems like the longest one of all. The crowd cheered when the clock started running again.

Helicopter Fly By Video

At four minutes we sang the "Star Spangled Banner" and I started practising zooms, tilts, and pans with my camera. After that things happened real fast. Here's a link to the top of the post with the video:

Video of Launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour for STS-127

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Launch of Shuttle Endeavour Scrubbed with Less Than 10 Minutes to Go

View of Space Shuttle Endeavour from across the Banana River on the NASA Causeway. This is about 5-1/2 miles away from the launchpad. It was a sunny day with a blue sky.

Since the first 2 scrubs were all about the fueling system, I learned more about the space shuttle fueling system. We didn't leave Tampa until fueling had begun.

We arrived at the NASA Causeway about 2 hours before launch and set up camp in the shade of our bus. Florida summers are hot and the sun is fierce. We saw manatees in the water. Pelicans were diving for fish. We caught up with friends from New Jersey who returned to Florida to see the launch.

The sky was blue over the launch pad when we heard thunder behind us. There was a big dark cloud in the west. An announcement came over the PA that the thunderstorm created a No Go condition for launch. We all hoped it would blow away. The rest of the sky was clear, but if there's a thunderstorm with lightning within 20 nautical miles of the launchpad or landing strip it's No Go. They broadcast the control room roll call from Florida and Houston. We heard, "Go, Go, Go, No Go, Go, Go, Go, No Go, Go..." The No Go's were from the Weather Officers. There were a few outbursts, but for the most part the crowd quietly packed up their camps and boarded their busses to return to the Visitor Center. We received vouchers to repurchase the orange bus tickets for when the launch of STS-127 was rescheduled. Five out of seven people in our group repurchased the orange tickets.