Author Topic: ariis's rocket launch mini TR  (Read 2794 times)

Offline ariIs

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ariis's rocket launch mini TR
« on: October 18, 2015, 12:28:56 PM »
Hi all,

I suggested seeing a rocket launch a while back in the DO forum, and although there was some interest, noone ended up rising to the challenge, so I went by myself :)
Here's my TR from that trip to Cape Canaveral (FL) to see the launch of a GPS satellite on top of an Atlas V rocket this July (better late than never!)

The first thing to know about rocket launches is that they are delayed much more often than any airline.
A lot has to do with weather, any number of things can go wrong with pre-flight checks, etc. so a rocket may be scheduled for a lunch, and delayed and rescheduled for days, weeks, or months.
I've always wanted to see one, but given how I live in NY, I would have to fly to florida to do it, and I didn't want to throw away a ticket if the launch gets scrubbed.
Once I started in the miles game, this became much more feasible, as an Avios booking can be cancelled within 24 hours if the launch doesn't work out. (Of course, there's still the option of a last-minute delay, but even then it's just 7500 Avios that I'd be losing out on).
Since I don't have many days off from work I found a lunch in July that was going to be at 11:15AM - I'd fly down on the early morning flight, and can fly back in the evening, taking only 1 day from work.
I booked an AA flight JFK->MCO for 7AM (arriving at 9:30AM in MCO), and a flight back at 6:30PM.
Then I reserved a car rental with Hertz - it was slightly more expensive (like $10) but I joined the free Gold Rewards program, so that I could have my car waiting right away to minimize delays at the airport.
The best spot to view a launch depends on which pad the rocket is lifting off form, and in this case Pad 41 was closest to Playalinda Beach, which is is in a national park just north of NASA Canaveral complex. (More info here http://www.launchphotography.com/Delta_4_Atlas_5_Falcon_9_Launch_Viewing.html)
The drive time is a bit over an hour, and I was not expecting much traffic.

I got to the airport, and went through security thanks to priority access on AA when booking through Avios, and got to the gate a good 30 minutes before boarding. I don't have AA status, so I couldn't use the lounge.

At the gate I got a pleasant surprise - a lot of seats were being reshuffled because kids can't sit in exit rows, and there are lots of kids on flights to MCO :) I got reassigned to the bulkhead seat in row 8, which was perfect for me since I needed to get off the plane as soon as possible.
The flight was uneventful, and we arrived in MCO at 9:30 on schedule.
Went to Hertz to get my rental car, and got an unpleasant surprise - the car was a beat up old Altima with NY plates (!) and tons of scratches and dents. Well, whatever - as long as it drives I thought.
As I pulled up to the booth at the exit of the garage, the car died, and wouldn't start again!
I had to demonstrate to the attendant that it was really dead, and then go back to the counter to get a replacement.
Of course by this time there was a line at the counter, and finally after 1/2 hour of impatient waiting I was out of there in a new car.
By this time it was 10:15, and I was cutting it pretty close to the 11:20 scheduled launch.
(I later emailed Hertz to complain about this, and they gave me $25 back for my trouble. Given that the rental was $55 total, I figure it's not bad).

I drove towards Canaveral, and was making good time until the entrance to the national park, where there was a line of cars (all going to the launch of course) waiting to pay the $5 to get in.
Fortunately once in the park, there were plenty of viewing spots on the side of the road with a nice unobstructed view of the launchpads. I pulled off at one of these next to a bunch of other cars an a news van there to film the launch.



You can't get too close to a rocket - this is about 1.5 miles away.

I settled on the grass next to a bunch of people and got my camera ready.
A few minutes later, liftoff!



The rocket climbs into the sky pretty quickly, but because we're a mile away, we don't hear the sound until it's halfway up the sky. But when you hear it, it's an amazing roar that seems to fill the whole sky!



The picture here don't do it justice (and I need a better zoom lens ;) )





The whole launch is about 2-3 minutes long.

After that I got back in the car and went to enjoy the beautiful beach

 



You can see the Vehicle Assembly Building (where they put rockets together) from the beach:



After swimming and having lunch, I headed back.
In the national park you can see some cool wildlife - I saw some pelicans flying around, and this egret standing by the side of the road



As I started heading out, a thunderstorm rolled in



Just a couple of hours earlier it would have scrubbed the launch.

On the way back I stopped by a Walmart to refill my serve with some GCs - and actually found a working Kate - a rarity to someone from NY :)
Driving back to Orlando I checked on my flight, and of course it was delayed by an hour, so I had some time to kill.
I drove around to see what I could do for a couple of hours, and found a 10 minute helicopter tour



That was cool, but there really isn't that much to see from a helicopter in Orlando ;)

Then I stopped by the skeleton and bone museum



which seems like a fun way to spend an hour. :)

Finally I stopped by Kosher Grill on International drive, and they had some surprisingly good food. I took it out as I wasn't sure how much longer the flight would be delayed.

Headed back to the airport, returned the rental car, and went to the plane. I would have had time to check out the United lounge, but it was in a different terminal, so I didn't bother.

On the flight back we flew right over the Cape, and I saw the launch pads down below (the round structures next to the beach)



So now I can cross this of my bucket list.

Thanks to Dan and everyone on the forums - I wouldn't have been able to take this trip without all the info and helpful people here!

Online TimT

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Re: ariis's rocket launch mini TR
« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2015, 12:41:55 PM »
Thanks for sharing.
Quote
Just a couple of hours earlier it would have scrubbed the launch.
Wow!! Lucky you

Offline LoLo

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Re: ariis's rocket launch mini TR
« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2015, 12:49:41 PM »
Nice way to spend a day off, Thanks for sharing.

Offline Joe4007

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Re: ariis's rocket launch mini TR
« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2015, 02:41:57 PM »
Cool! Thanks for taking the time.

Offline tzifanya54

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Re: ariis's rocket launch mini TR
« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2015, 09:24:56 PM »
Have you ever done the Kennedy space center? Sounds like it would be right up your alley...

Offline yochiek93

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Re: ariis's rocket launch mini TR
« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2015, 09:43:40 PM »
Very cool thank you

Offline kangarruu

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Re: ariis's rocket launch mini TR
« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2015, 09:56:54 PM »
I've wanted to do this forever. Is there a listing of launch locations and dates?

Offline yochiek93

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Re: ariis's rocket launch mini TR
« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2015, 11:51:25 PM »
I've wanted to do this forever. Is there a listing of launch locations and dates?
Some info on the link check the op

Offline ariIs

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ariis's rocket launch mini TR
« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2015, 12:13:08 AM »
I've wanted to do this forever. Is there a listing of launch locations and dates?

In addition to the links in the op, I found that this site has the most accurate times for upcoming launches from canaveral: http://spacecoastlaunches.com

And this one has updates about the mission - you can also follow them on Twitter for updates http://spaceflightnow.com

Offline ariIs

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Re: ariis's rocket launch mini TR
« Reply #9 on: October 19, 2015, 12:23:49 AM »
Btw, forgot to mention in the TR, but the runway you see in the last picture is the one where space shuttles used to land.

The captain on the outgoing flight was really nice and gave a little tour over the PA as we were flying over canaveral.

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: ariis's rocket launch mini TR
« Reply #10 on: October 19, 2015, 07:00:17 PM »
Cool TR! I think it's a first here on DDF.

Offline damaxer91

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Re: ariis's rocket launch mini TR
« Reply #11 on: October 19, 2015, 07:02:55 PM »
Cool TR and a small way to recoup what IMHO is our biggest waste of taxpayer $$

Offline kangarruu

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Re: ariis's rocket launch mini TR
« Reply #12 on: October 19, 2015, 09:06:28 PM »
Cool TR and a small way to recoup what IMHO is our biggest waste of taxpayer $$

Yeah, GPS provides no major economic benefits.  ::)

Offline damaxer91

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Re: ariis's rocket launch mini TR
« Reply #13 on: October 20, 2015, 12:06:23 PM »
Yeah, GPS provides no major economic benefits.  ::)

Not talking about launching satellites

Offline sharkky

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Re: ariis's rocket launch mini TR
« Reply #14 on: October 27, 2015, 03:07:55 PM »
Cool TR   :)     I guess bowling and Thursday night chulent aren't the only options