Iridium visibility? & Vandenberg launches

jr909 (
Sun, 19 Jan 1997 10:05:04 -0800

I live in the Los Angeles area and am going to try to watch
the Delta 2 launch from Vandenberg AFB of the first 3 Iridium
satellites. Actually, I already tried twice but the launch was
scrubbed each time. Now, I heard one report that it will not
be re-scheduled until after the cause of the Delta 2 explosion
Jan. 17 at Canaveral AFB is known and understood. The Iridium
project will eventually be a 66 low earth orbit constellation
requiring many launches hopefully many from Vandenberg. Originally
the design was to have been 77 satellites and Iridium is the 
77th element in the periodic table of elements, thus the name.
Then the plan changed to 66 satellites but they decided to stick
with the name. Iridium is to be a totally worldwide (even the 
arctic and antarctica regions) voice, fax, data, paging system
supporting hand-held receivers.

Does anyone have a notion as to the potential visibility of these
satellites once in orbit? In browsing the web, I saw a small image
and it looks like a dark color scheme so that doesn't look too
favorable for the visual satellite observer. Or am I wrong?

Also, I'm attempting to be an avid, gung-ho, Vandenberg space launch
observer. Does anyone know if there are radio frequencies that can be
monitored to help me keep on top of exactly when launches will occur?
Are private and commercial pilots given a "heads-up (or heads-down)"
on radio when a launch is about to happen? I have some web pages 
bookmarked and some hotline phone numbers but I'm looking for more
ways to be on top of launch situations.

Incidentally, I saw the Titan 4 launch Dec. 20.  Because I didn't leave
early enough and because of darned freeway traffic, I was still 10
min. outside of Lompoc when I saw through my windshield the rocket
streaking up. With a mixture of excitement and frustration (because
I wasn't closer), I immediately pulled over and looked at it with
my binoculars and the naked eye and saw a couple of boosters separate
from it. It launched at 10:04 AM PST and Ted Molzcan had predicted
as I remember 10:07 plus or minus 15 min. I was amazed at his 
accuracy because the launch window was 3.5 hrs. long. I think there
is supposed to be another Titan 4 in April.  My "heads-up" on the
Dec. Titan 4 launch was postings in SeeSat. Please keep up any space
launch postings.  

Before last month's Titan 4, my previous launch experience had been
the Apollo 8 Saturn V launch in Dec. 1968. We lived in Florida about
2 or 3 hrs. drive away, and as I remember, pretty much on a whim,
my father and I decided to drive down and watch it. We watched it from
a motel parking lot in Titusville which I think was about 15 mi. away.
What a sight and sound! I'm glad we got that whim. On visits to 
Florida, several times I've tried to coordinate my trips with
Space Shuttle launches, but in each case, it was either delayed or
scrubbed so I've never managed to see one.  One time, I was there
with binoculars trained on the pad and it got scrubbed 30 sec. before
launch. It launched some days later but I was back in California.

Sorry if I've gotten off-topic or rambled on too much but I have a
tendency to do that.

Jake Rees
Burbank, California