Titan 4 from Boston

From: Sean Sullivan (seesat@golux.org)
Date: Fri Apr 29 2005 - 22:44:11 EDT

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    I saw the Titan 4 launch from Medford MA (a few miles north of Boston).
    Since the rocket was in daylight, the launch was quite spectacular.  An 
    approaching cloud bank obscured the horizon.  I spotted the rocket shortly 
    after first stage separation, and saw two objects separated by a few 
    degrees.  I applied the sanity check of watching for relative motion 
    against background stars, and in this case, my first impression was that 
    it failed that test.  But I wasn't convinced so I looked through 
    binoculars.  That's when I realized that BOTH objects were moving 
    together! and it had to be the payload/2nd stage trailed by the 1st stage.
    There was so much activity that I didn't know what to watch.  The 1st 
    stage had the cometlike appearance due to venting; I haven't gotten to see 
    this phenomenon before because I haven't seen a sunlit ascent.  The 2nd 
    stage showed the frequent puffing I'm used to seeing from late stages of 
    shuttle launches, but more complex.  As the objects passed across the sky, 
    the 2nd stage was dramatically gaining on the 1st stage.  I didn't think 
    of watching for payload separation.
    Within the hour, the predicted cloud bank arrived and brought overcast 
    skies.  I'm glad it held off long enough to see the launch.
    Here's a photo of the ascent (not particularly interesting, and I didn't 
    record the time).  The bright object is Jupiter; 2nd stage and payload 
    above, and 1st stage to the right.  The 1st stage is clearly somewhat 
    fuzzier, but the cometlike appearance doesn't come across in the photo.
    Ted, I used your spreadsheet predictions for the az/el during ascent, and 
    they were very helpful.  The track was a lot higher than a shuttle launch, 
    and knowing to expect made it easier given the cloudy southern skies.
    -- Sean
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