Absolutely Spectacular!

Stuart L Huston (slhuston@juno.com)
Sat, 8 Nov 1997 18:03:39 -0800

The Delta II Iridium launch from Vandenberg was by far the most
spectacular I've seen so far.  It was apparently also successful.  From
Newport Beach, 160 miles southwest of the base, the rocket first appeared
as a dull red spot rising above the Palos Verdes peninsula. As it rose
higher, the solid rocket exhaust plume started scattering the sunlight,
creating a glowing contrail that kept expanding as the rocket rose.  I
think the ground-lit solids burned out behind a cloud, but the air-lits
continued the show, eventually expanding to a couple of degrees wide near
MECO.  (Admiring the beauty of the event, I didn't think to check the
actual width.)  The whole contrail remained lit up as the second stage
disappeared to the southwest.  All in all, a well-timed and executed
launch.

Stu Huston