It was never a sure thing with the leaden skies and incipient rain and lightning so when we went Red for upper level wind conditions, we were all worried.
The hold was short and the United Launch Alliance Atlas V with the second MUOS satellite aboard lifted off at 9:00 a.m., 44 years after Apollo 11 passed behind the Moon and fired its engine to enter lunar orbit. This was my first in-person launch. WOW, what a birthday present!
“The U.S. Navy’s Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) is a next-generation narrowband tactical satellite communications system designed to significantly improve ground communications for U.S. forces on the move. MUOS will provide military users more communications capability over existing systems, including simultaneous voice, video and data – similar to the capabilities experienced today with smart phones.
“MUOS satellites are equipped with a Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) payload that provides a 16-fold increase in transmission throughput over the current Ultra High Frequency (UHF) satellite system. Each MUOS satellite also includes a legacy UHF payload that is fully compatible with the current UHF Follow-on system and legacy terminals. This dual-payload design ensures a smooth transition to the cutting-edge WCDMA technology while the UFO system is phased out.”
The United Launch Alliance (a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing) has three expendable launch systems: Delta II, Delta IV and the Atlas V. These vehicles have carried payloads such as weather, telecommunications and national security satellites, as well as deep space and interplanetary exploration missions for more than 50 years.
And pound the ground it did.
More than 300 Atlas launches have been conducted from Cape Canaveral and 285 more from Vandenberg.
Once upon a time, not so many years ago, we huddled around our television sets and watched every launch.
I drove down to South Puffin from North Florida last night through a bodacious thunderstorm that stalled all flights out of Orlando and knocked out the Internet and the cash registers at the gas station I sheltered in. They couldn’t even take cash for gas.
I drove through Christmas and then stopped at Sebring. That fabled 3.7 mile, paved road course hosts the 12 hours of Sebring endurance race as well as the Chumpcar World Series, the SCCA Turkeytrot, the American LeMans, and dozens more races each year. It is one of the busiest year-round circuits in North America and held an event I missed this weekend. Still, I drove around, got directions from a very nice airport security fellow, and found my way to the SCCA compound. They welcomed me, even though I forgot to bring beer.
Then they invited me to come back up and flag.
Pretty darned good weekend!
Click here for the good launch photos.