Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Exhilarating Maiden Launch of Falcon 9R from VAFB

For a month, from late August to late September this year, I tracked the launch preparations for SpaceX's maiden launch of its Falcon 9R rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, CA. I published updates and photos on this blog. After multiple delays throughout the month, the launch date was set for September 29, 2013, with a launch window of 9-11 a.m. PDT, and a second possible window 24 hours later.

The launch was breathtakingly beautiful and occurred as soon as the window opened, on a perfect Sunday morning, under brilliantly blue skies - which is rare for summer mornings at VAFB, where fog and low clouds are common.

This was SpaceX's first launch from its home state of California.

Here is a video with a sequence of photos we took as we watched Falcon 9R and Cassiope ascend into orbit. After the launch, we did some reconnaissance around the area and discovered a public viewing area that put us 5 miles closer to the launch pad.

This was our vantage point from Providence Landing Park in Lompoc, about 10 miles from the launch pad. The top of Falcon 9R is peeking out from behind the hill.

Close-up of the above view, just before launch.

View towards the launch pad on Launch Day Eve from Providence Landing Park.

We have lift-off! Falcon 9R soars skyward!

We missed filming the very first seconds of the launch, mainly because it took us by surprise. After all the delays, we expected to settle in for a wait. But Falcon 9R had other plans! The sound waves of the launch take 25 seconds to hit the camera.

Contrail from Stage 1 separation as Falcon 9R keeps climbing 

Eventually, the contrail started to look like a ferret jumping over a cloud! 
Also in this photo: Spot the crescent moon!

Weather and visibility the very next morning at the same time. 
The weather cooperated perfectly for Falcon 9R's maiden launch from VAFB!

Photo and video credit: Bradley Falk