Thursday, March 21, 2013

Go SBIRS! Go AtlasV! Go Centaur!

For two-days starting Monday March 18, 2013 ULA hosted it's inaugural tweetup for 30 space social media followers. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the launch on the second day but I hope you enjoy these photos from day one!

We started at the Air Force Space and Missile History Center, located in Cape Canaveral just outside the entrance to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. They have a wonderful free tour of the CCAFS on Wednesdays & Thursdays. (edited to add: these are currently not running)

A console from the Gemini-launch era inside the History Center. It was used to test Titan II rockets and was located in launch complex 19.

My tweetup lanyard. :) I'll add it to my growing collection.

This event was located at Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41). The Vertical Integration Facility, where the vehicle is assembled. The vehicle is a ULA built Atlas V in  the 401 configuration with a 4-meter payload fairing encapsulating the SBIRS Geo-2 satellite, attached to a Centaur second-stage.

You can see the rocket just starting to roll-out from the VIF just to the right. It travels slightly faster than the space shuttle, at a rate of about 2-3 mph.

At this point we're about 20 minutes into the rollout, as it travels 1/4 mile to the launch pad.

Approximately 45 minutes later, it arrives at the SLC-41.

During the roll-out, I enjoyed the view from Camera Pad 3 of the historical Astronaut Beach House.

A panorama with the Atlantic to the east and SLC-41 just to our northwest.  ...and the Atlantic Ocean
Old lightning detectors, no longer in use.  

A view of the side of the VIF from where the vehicle rolled out. Following the rollout, the ULA group was transported by bus to the launch pad.

Here's a closeup of the Centaur with the American flag, Air Force, Atlas V, and ULA logos. The satellite is enclosed within the conical payload fairing. You can sleep a little better tonight knowing that this satellite is in space. The  Space-Based Infrared System in geosynchronous orbit(aka  SBIRS GEO-2) was built by Lockheed Martin for the Department of Defense.

My friend and photographer Bob Montanaro of in front of the rocket.

Another panorama, this time of SLC-41 with the vehicle on the pad being prepped for launch. If you pan around, you can see the VIF and the general surrounding area.

My iPhone photo of the rocket, ready for action. I like it!

Later in the day we visited the Morrell Operations Center, where we toured the Air Force Launch Control room and weather monitoring center.

Colonel Jim Planeaux

Models of the Atlas and Delta rockets inside the Atlantis Space Operations Center, site of the ULA launch control room (and lunch!)

For detailed photos of the launch itself, please visit!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013