Rockets At The Beach

January 09, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

What better way to start my 2024 rocket season than at a location I've been wanting to shoot from for a while! Playalinda Beach, within Canaveral National Seashore. It is a gorgeous location with a perfect view South toward the launch pads of Kennedy Space Center. The tricky thing is that it is not always open during launches due to safety concerns (if a launch is too close to the beach, they will close access), and sometimes it reaches capacity quickly and they close access at that point as well. Today was a normal Falcon 9 Starlink launch so I gambled on a Sunday hoping for normal crowds. It was originally scheduled for a 2:00(ish) launch time, but typical of rockets, it got pushed to 5:35 pm. YIKES. Great for photography with a beautiful sunset sky, but getting terribly close to gate closing at 6:00 pm when they then would kick everyone out of the area. But obviously, it launched right at 5:35. 

I arrived at noon, loaded all my gear for a two-camera system into my little wagon and towed it for a 30-minute trek down the beach to the closest point we are allowed to get, a fenced barrier limiting access to NASA property. This was my first time at this location, I didn't know what to expect. I surveyed the area and realized that on that spot on the beach, while so very close and beautiful, was also very low. The tide was coming in and was due to peak right at the launch window. I didn't want to be contending with that while managing my cameras. From past images I've seen from this location, the water does indeed swell up around the fenced area right where we can stand. Plus, I liked the higher vantage point I saw from the platform waaaaay back on my way in, and all the spectators in the foreground would make it just that much more fun. Sigh. Trek back I must. Thank goodness for the little wagon. I passed quite a few fishermen, I stopped to talk with one particularly successful fella taking off a large 24" fish from his line; "BLUE!" he shouted with a big smile on his face. Blue fish is what he called them. He obviously knew what he was doing and had absolutely no interest in the impending rocket launch.

I made it back to the point I felt to be the best angle and set up. I was surprised how quiet it actually was.... until approximately 10 minutes to launch, then it got crowded, but that energy is what makes this fun, and it never gets old. I feel the same, every launch, a very nervous excitement as the countdown winds and I wait for the glow in the horizon. And with every new location, I'm making notes on pad location and orientation so I can learn which pad is situated where and what I am able to see from that particular location. It's like collecting fossils in a way, I'm collecting data and recording it, trying to get as much as I can and the best I can. Anyway, you probably just want the photo. Well, here it is. A composite of a time-lapse, several stacked together. No long-exposure arc due to the time of the day, I would have risked an overexposed image. Plus, I wanted something new. I hope you enjoy the beach as much as I did. I'll go back for sure.

Mission details located below the image. Click the image to open in gallery.

Falcon 9 Starlink Group 6-35 PlayalindaFalcon 9 Starlink Group 6-35 Playalinda

 

Mission Details:

Falcon 9 Block 5 Starlink Group 6-35

  • Thrust: 7,607 kN
  • Stages: 2
  • Height: 70 m
  • Fairing Height: 13 m
  • Booster B1067 Flight #16 landing on Drone Ship ASOG
  • Type: Communications
  • Launch Cost: $52,000,000
  • Location: SLC 40, Cape Canaveral FL

 


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