Atlas 2AS launch observation

From: Skywise (
Date: Tue Dec 02 2003 - 05:36:19 EST

  • Next message: Greg Roberts: "Obs 01 December 2003"

    Just observed the Atlas 2AS launch on time from Vandenberg from my
    location in Stanton, Orange County, CA. (I'm with a couple hundred
    feet of exactly -118.0 32.8).
    Having observed several Minuteman launches I was caught a little
    off guard in that the the vehicle rose above my horizon just north
    of due west as opposed to the north-west I was used to. Obviously
    due to it's intended orbit as opposed to heading off to Kwajalein.
    I caught it in plenty of time to observe the first stage glowing
    a bright reddish orange with no plume. The light faded for a second
    and there was a puff of white. By this time I was observing with
    my 7x35's. I could easily see the first stage fall away as the
    second stage lit.
    The second stage was the same bright red orange, almost like a
    signal flare. However, a very white exhaust plume soon developed.
    Through binocs the plume appeared to be composed of smaller puffs
    that could be seen moving down through the plume as it widened.
    Naked eye the plume appeared a little larger that the moon.
    The whole affair still had a tremendous forward motion as it
    moved just south of Orion.
    One thing I noticed about the plume was it appeared to be 'directed'
    somewhat downward relative to the rockets line of travel. Probably
    just an artifact of the angle of observation.
    I continued following the rocket both 1x and with binocs until I
    lost it when the second stage cut off. This was almost due south
    of me in the south-western corner of Canis Major.
    Definitely worth waiting up till 2am for!!!!
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