Last night’s launch of a Minotaur I rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia was visible to millions along the east coast of the US and southern Canada, and many were out with their cameras to watch the sight.
The launch sent a record payload of 29 satellites to low Earth orbit, including the first cubesat built by high school students.
Launch occurred at about 8:15 p.m. EST on November 19 (01:15 UTC, Nov. 20).
Approximately 12 minutes after lift-off, the Air Force’s Space Test Program Satellite-3 spacecraft was deployed into its intended orbit at an altitude of approximately 500 km (310 miles). The Minotaur’s upper stage then executed a pre-planned collision avoidance maneuver before starting deployment of 28 CubeSats sponsored by the Department of Defense’s Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) office, the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s Space Test Program, and NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) program.
This was the 25th launch for Orbital Science’s Minotaur rocket, all of which have been successful, and the sixth Minotaur vehicle to be launched from the Wallops facility.
Marion Haligowski took the image above, saying “I should have used a wider lens; I didn’t realize the launch would take up 1/4 of the sky from 154 miles away!” and of her image below she added, “I was surprised how high the separation was from 154 miles away from the Wallops Island launch site.”
Our own Jason Major saw the launch from near his home in Rhode Island. “I withstood the cold (and launch delay) to capture this photo of a rising Minotaur I rocket, launched 400 miles south,” Jason said. This is a 15-second exposure.
Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Twitter feed had a running commentary of the launch activities and posted this image shortly after launch:
And the launch was a topic of discussion on Twitter, too:
Just watched @nasa launch a rocket from earth on my phone while waiting for the metro, in case you didn't think the future's great.
— Jason L. Sparks (@sparksjls) November 20, 2013
Here’s a short timelapse of the launch, viewed from the beach in Cape May, New Jersey. Photographer Frank Miller said that 20 minutes before the 8:15 PM launch, he photographed a meteor streaking south, which is the first “streak” you see in the video:
The next Wallops launch is an Antares rocket with a Cygnus cargo spacecraft targeted for Dec. 15-21, 2013, and as it looks now, it will again be an evening launch, so make your preparations to see it, and we’ll keep you posted on launch dates.
And if you missed the launch, here’s the replay: