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Sunsat launch seen from San Diego



I just watched the first part of the Delta launch from the front of my
house here in San Diego. I picked up the unmistakeable yellow SRB
plumes about a minute after launch when it rose above the usual low
elevation haze.  It was very conspicuous until the second set of SRBs
burned out.

The first stage sustainer phase was less bright, but still easily
seen, especially in binoculars. Part of its plume could also be seen,
especially near the end of first stage flight when the launcher was
approximately to my west as it came down the coast.  Then I saw a
momentary flash (probably the separation motors being fired) and then
nothing more. (Not to worry; the second stage burns hypergolic fuels
that produce no visible flame or plume.)

I captured part of the flight on videotape, but it was very hard to
keep it aimed properly while also fumbling with binoculars in the
dark.

This launch was no match for the Iridium launches that have taken
place during twilight, but it was still worth seeing. Late evening
launches are especially spectacular when the first stage vapor trail
is backlit by the sun; they generate many UFO reports.

The first stage plume isn't as bright during a dawn launch, but the
high sun angle makes it very easy to see the individual launcher
components. On one morning Iridium launch I could easily see the
second stage moving on with the first stage and the two tumbling
pieces of the payload fairing all falling behind it, flashing quite
brightly.

Phil
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