Photo Feature: Double (No) Trouble—ULA Atlas V With AEHF-3 and Orbital's Antares With Cygnus 1

AmericaSpace broke its core photography team into two elements this past week to report on two launches - taking place in a single day. Photo Credit: Alan Walters & John Studwell / AmericaSpace

AmericaSpace broke its core photography team into two elements this past week to report on two launches taking place in a single day. Photo Credit: Alan Walters & John Studwell / AmericaSpace

Virginia Is for (Rocket) Lovers:

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va — Concerns about high-upper level winds and cloud ceilings failed to materialize this past Wednesday as NASA and Dulles, Va.-based Orbital Sciences Corporation successfully launched the second Antares rocket and the first Cygnus spacecraft toward the International Space Station. The launch served to highlight the growing presence of Orbital as a launch service provider—and Virginia as a launch site.

In some ways the general terrain of the location is eerily similar to that of Cape Canaveral in Florida—in other ways not so much. The area is dominated by rows of corn, soy beans, and chicken farms. While both are near the ocean, Wallops Flight Facility is cool this time of year, with various species of water fowl dotting the skies and surrounding marshes—far different than the muggy temperatures found at Cape Canaveral.

AmericaSpace photo Wallops Flight Facility Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-0A Antares Cygnus 1 Orbital Sciences Corporation photo credit Alan Walters / AmericaSpace

Even the one remote camera that opted to not work during liftoff provided the basis for this stunning image of the Antares launch vehicle at Pad 0A. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace

As far as the public goes, some Cape Canaveral residents live as close as eight miles from an active pad. Pad-0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (where Wednesday’s launch took place) is about two miles from some residents. So close, in fact, that those homes were paid a visit and any residents were asked to step outside.

While this might seem counter-intuitive, it, in fact, made good sense. If there was, in the words of Orbital’s Frank Culbertson, “an over-pressure event,” the proximity of the homes coupled with the acoustics could have seen said homes have their windows blown out (in). As such, residents looking out those windows faced a serious threat.

Wallops Flight Facility, while older than Cape Canaveral, is new to launching rockets the size of Orbital's Antares. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian / AmericaSpace

Wallops Flight Facility—while older than Cape Canaveral—is new to launching rockets the size of Orbital’s Antares. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian / AmericaSpace

In terms of space flight, Virginia is a very different animal. The atmosphere is more relaxed than at Cape Canaveral, but the normal requirements are in place. The viewing site at Wallops is about one mile closer to the pad than in Florida, providing an extra exciting exclamation point to liftoff.

Shortly after the first launch of Antares this past April, a representative from another aerospace firm mocked the repeated use of the word “nominal” by Orbital’s Mike Dorsch—a fact touched on during the post-launch press conference by Orbital’s Executive Vice President and General Manager of Orbital’s Advanced Programs Group, Frank Culbertson. When these comments were mentioned afterward, one member of the media replied, “I think the real problem is that they don’t hear half as many ‘nominals’ during one of their missions.” Ouch.

AmericaSpace photo ULA United Launch Alliance Atlas V 531 SLC 41 Cape Canaveral Advanced Extremely High Frequency 3 AEHF 3 satellite photo credit John Studwell 1 AmericaSpace

Not even a full eight hours prior to Orbital’s historic launch, United Launch Alliance sent the AEHF-3 spacecraft into orbit using the venerable Atlas launch system. Photo Credit: John Studwell / AmericaSpace

Boaters Beware:

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — Meanwhile, down in the Sunshine State, another element of the AmericaSpace team pulled some long hours to document the liftoff of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 531 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41). Launch was slated to take place at 3:04 a.m. EDT; it didn’t occur until 4:10 a.m. EDT. This was in large part due to a wayward boat off the coast.

Night launches, while great for the public, are generally a disappointment for photographers, as the images are “blown” out (washed out with light). However, in this case the AmericaSpace team utilized the resources on hand and managed to pull some stunning images out of the dark.

The Atlas' fairing is festooned with art marking it as the vehicle used to send AEHF-3 to orbit. Photo Credit: John Studwell / AmericaSpace

The Atlas’ fairing is emblazoned with art that denotes it as the rocket which will send the AEHF-3 spacecraft to orbit. Photo Credit: John Studwell / AmericaSpace

John Studwell AmericaSpace Atlas V ULA United Launch Alliance Atlas V 531 Cape Canaveral AIr Force Station photo credit John Studwell

Photo Credit: John Studwell / AmericaSpace

 

 

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