Hi fellow SeeSat subscribers. I posted this item on SeeSat, but forgot to tell you who posted it. Anyway, I'm not feeling too well and accidentally left it out. Here's my account of last Thursday night's Titan IV launch from Vandenberg AFB. What the account doesn't mention was that I was really ill that night. In spite of that, I shot several photos using Kodak PPF 400 film and an f/1.4 50mm lens. I also did a news story for the radio station I work with. Regards, Brian Webb Thousand Oaks, CA --------------------------------------------------------------------------- October 23rd Titan IV Launch I was probably as close to the Vandenberg AFB Titan IV launch that you could get and still have a clear sky. On Thursday morning I printed out the Terminal Aerodrome Forecast (TAF) for Vandenberg. What I saw was so typical for Vandenberg: A layer of clouds 700 feet above the ground was predicted at launch time. Although I was welcome to view the launch from the on-base press site, I decided to avoid the Van- denberg area. Meanwhile, the TAF for Santa Barbara Airport forecasted few to no clouds. I called an aviation weather forecaster at the National Weather Service and asked if low clouds were present between Vandenberg and Santa Barbara at launch time, how high would the cloud tops be. His estimate was 4,000 to 5,000 feet. At 15:00 PDT (22:00 UTC) Thursday afternoon, I looked at the high resolution (1 X 1 km) weather satellite image for southern California. The coast from Vandenberg to north to San Luis Obispo was cloudy. However, the coastal area of Santa Barbara County was clear. I left work at 15:45 (22:45 UTC) and headed for Santa Ynez Peak, a 4,200 foot high mountain about 20 miles from Vandenberg. The sky was quite cloudy in Ventura County, but the further towards the northwest I drove, the clear- er it became. The coast between north Santa Barbara and Refugio State Beach was clear. When I arrived at the peak at 17:50 (00:50) The areas to either side of the mountain range were clear, but a mountain wave cloud covered most of the mountain range. My location was above the cloud sheet, but only by about 10 feet! This was just too risky for me. From this excellent vantage point I could see that the area between north Santa Barbara and Refugio was clear. I reported the current weather condi- tions to other space enthusiasts via amateur radio and began the dangerous drive down Santa Ynez Peak to the coast. After a lot of driving around, I found a good viewing area on the west side of highway 101 about 1 mile south of Refugio State Beach. I passed on my new location via ham radio. Within 30 minutes I had been joined by sever- al fellow hams. At 19:20 PDT (02:20 UTC) I called Vandenberg and learned that were were at T-13 minutes and counting. And there we were: several space enthusiasts standing in the dark. On the other side of nearby mountain range, 54 km away, was the SLC-4E and the Titan IV. At 19:32 (02:32 UTC), the sky behind the mountains gradually began to glow yellow. The glow gradually grew brighter and brighter. In a scene that re- minds me of the movie "Close Encounters", rays of light and shadows appeared and began to move. There was something behind the mountains and it was very bright. A very bright yellow ball of light appeared and quickly climbed higher and higher. As it climbed, the flame grew longer. The Titan IV was quite a sight as it crossed the night sky. After about a minute, I saw a bright yellow flash as small rockets ignited to push the solid motors away from the core vehicle. When the solid motors were jettisoned, I saw a glowing red dot fall away from the core vehicle. One of my friends was looking through binoculars and saw two red rings falling away. These were apparently the red hot nozzles of the solid motors. The core vehicle continued on. It looked like a bright white star. As it moved down range, it gradually grew dimmer and finally disappeared. After the launch, our group drove to Woody's BBQ in Santa Barbara and en- joyed a good meal and each other's company. A fine ending to an interesting evening.