It was much brighter than I expected. Even though the rocket launch of the GOES-S next generation weather satellite took place at 5:02 p.m., in full sunlight more than 20 miles away, you could clearly see a large, bright orange kernel of flame trailing the Atlas V rocket as it shot skyward. There was a sense of awe as the object soared upward, faster and faster, until it entered space not 20 seconds later. Even though the crashing ocean waves to my left made plenty of noise, the rocket sounded like the dull roar of a jet plane as it flew. Very cool.
This was New Smyrna Beach, on the space coast in Florida, just north of Cape Canaveral, and I was beachside in front of Festiva’s Coconut Palms II resort. I had stayed there last week to photograph new room renovations, and saw that there was a rocket launch scheduled. While you can drive about 45 minutes south to viewing stations in the Canaveral National Seashore, or pay a fee to watch launches at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, I chose to walk out to the beach to see what it looked like from the resort. Yes, it was far away, but still a thrilling site and part of what makes this area of Florida unlike any other beach.
There were more people out there to watch the launch than expected. This wasn’t a particularly well publicized launch. There wasn’t a shiny convertible being shot into space by Elon Musk. But still, this was important- number two in a series of four advanced geostationary weather satellites which will be utilized by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. These next generation satellites mean better data and better weather forecasting in the short and long term.
Next time you’re staying at Coconut Palms II and there’s a scheduled rocket launch, wander down to the beach (or look south from your balcony) and check it out. It’s a great family experience that only takes minutes out of your busy vacation day, and it’s really neat to see firsthand something that is going into space.
What you need to know:
Click here for the Kennedy Space Center’s rocket launch schedule.
On the day of the launch, check the Kennedy Space Center’s Twitter account for up to the minute updates. They’ll give weather updates, announce when the rocket is fueling, give the go/no go update, and even a t-minus countdown. It’s thrilling to be on the beach and seeing rocket launch updates in real time!