Titan IV launch observed

From: Rick Baldridge (rickbaldridge@msn.com)
Date: Sat Oct 06 2001 - 21:07:38 EDT

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    Friday I went down near Santa Barbara to watch a Titan IV launch.  Fog was
    very thick all the way down the coast, so we opted to observe from Santa
    Ynez Peak, about 20 miles East of the launch pad SLC-4E at Vandenberg.
    Initially, the fog was even on top of the 4,300 foot peak, but within 10
    minutes of our arrival the fog cleared and we were about 1000 feet above the
    cloud tops with a perfect view towards Vandenberg.  It took us about 4.5
    hours to drive to the observing site from the Bay Area.  Launch guru BRIAN
    WEBB was there and greatly assisted us in setting up, telling us where to
    aim out cameras, etc.  Many thanks, Brian!
    Launch was at 2:21:01.3pm PDT and the vehicle became visible above the fog
    at about T+18 seconds.  It rose quickly and the flames from the two solid
    rocket boosters were bright orange.  As the vehicle headed downrange
    entering its polar orbit, the flame length increased in apparent size,
    reaching almost 1 degree long. The exhaust plume was made up of thick white
    smoke virtually the same in appearance as a Space Shuttle trail.  Booster
    separation at T+148 seconds was very spectacular, and we saw the spent
    boosters tumbling away end-over-end about two rotations.  They were almost
    directly under the sun from our location at this point and the slight haze
    caused us to lose sight of everything shortly thereafter.
    I placed a few frame-grabbed photos from my video tape of the launch at:
    Check back in about a week after I have added more images to the Album.
    For a background story of the launch, see Spacefight Now:
    I can't wait 'til the next one!
    Campbell, CA
    37.272 -121.977
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