This post is primarily for all of you Falcon 9 launch fans who reside in southern California and includes the latest launch information for the several times rescheduled flight, now for Sunday, February 18 from Vandenberg Airforce Base. The exhaust plume is expected to be visible across a big part of SoCal, assuming that the clouds to not get in the way.
Well, now that we have seen and experienced the Falcon Heavy launch at Kennedy Space Center, as described in 3-4 recent posts, we have been hooked a little bit on following other launches. The next launch here on he west coast is scheduled for Sunday, but as the post from Spaceflightnow shows it may or may not go on schedule, especially given that the flight was originally scheduled for January 30. Oh well, that is perhaps par for the space flight business.
Latest announcement for Falcon 9 launch with Paz satellite (Source: www.spaceflightnow.com)
So, if you want to get really close to the launch site then check out some possible viewing locations shown on the Vandenberg Air Force webpage below. Note, that this webpage has not be updated to show the schedule delay, which is now for February 18, not February 17.
|Webpage showing wrong date for Falcon 9 launch, but some viewing locations (Source: www.vandenberg.af.mil)|
Ok, ok, maybe you are not into making the something like 4 hour drive from Orange County to the launch site, you can still just look up in the sky on Sunday morning and maybe see the rocket plume in the dawn sunlight. If you do choose to drive up the coast you might want to plan to attend a few of the local wineries as a consolation prize if the launch gets delayed. If you want to just stay here in Orange County or other parts of SoCal, you might want to know what direction to scan the sky, so checkout the azimuthal map shown below, which shows that for those of us in Orange County we should look at azimuth of about 295 degrees, or say somewhere just west of northwest.
|Azimuthal map from Orange County to launch site (Source: Tom at https://ns6t.net/azimuth/)|
Finally, SpaceX approach to cost reduction is to recover the first stage of the launch rocket and reuse it for future launches. The photo below shows one of the drone ships, which is as large as a football field. The ship docks at Port Canaveral and unloads the recovered booster there. When we were in Florida for the recent Falcon Heavy launch, we had a chance to see the Port of Canaveral, but the boosters were not there because for that launch both boosters landed on land at Cape Canaveral.
|Drone ship used to recover Falcon 9 first stage boosters (Source: SpaceX)|
I have not seen any information if the west coast launch will also land on one of the drone ships stationed out here or not. But, be sure to consider getting up early on Sunday morning for the launch at 6:17 AM PST, if all goes well, and if the weather cooperates for good viewing of the rocket plume high in the sky to the west. I have seen it before from Orange County and even once from Borrego Springs during a recent Night Fall Star Party there. Oh, if you really enjoy sleeping in and don't want to get up early for nothing, you might want to check the available websites and email announcements, before you go to sleep, regarding any changes to the flight schedule!
Until next time,
Resident Astronomer George