Vulcan Rocket Maiden Voyage To Moon

January 09, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

What a rollercoaster of emotions. The nervous anticipation waiting until 2:18 am on January 8, 2024 to see if the new ULA Vulcan Centaur Rocket would actually launch on time from SLV-41, and without incident. I was so full of excitement. I had arrived in Titusville to photograph a Falcon 9 launch much earlier in the day and had hoped to rest in between launches but that was not going to happen. I found my vantage point and set up, then waited the 6 hours for 2 am to arrive. I had taken several test shots much earlier in the night when the stars were clear and bright. I was ready. I sat there waiting, watching the remnants of bioluminescence twinkle on the shore of the Indian River Lagoon like tiny blue diamonds. Tonight was going to be magical, I could feel it. So could the little raccoon that briefly came by for a visit, I whispered gentle greetings to the little fella as he paused to see if I could offer him some late night snacks.

2:18 am was upon us. The culmination of prep and bleary-eyed waiting broke free as soon as the skyline burst into a ball of fire. With much success, the ULA Vulcan launched with extreme brilliance, so bright I was not prepared! The engine burn was a strange blue hue, and much bigger than I expected. As the rocket lofted high into the sky, huge sparks showering down all around as it rose (which I've never witnessed before). The clamoring engine roar rolled across the water through my chest and beyond. I could see the launch pad still glowing orange as it burned off remaining gas from the launch, another unusual feature. So many interesting things happening all at once, it was a lot to take in! I was so excited it went up without incident! So excited! This is the stuff that makes these launches so very addicting.

But alas, the mission's success may not last. Today, a few days later as I write this post, the mission may be in peril. It was supposed to orbit the earth several times before slingshotting to the moon where it was supposed to then orbit the moon several times before deploying the lander to decend for landing on February 23rd. However, due to problems discovered several hours after launch, that landing may not ever happen. The Pittsburg-based company that built the lunar lander, Astrobotic, has been posting regular updates on their Astrobotic Press Page as well as Astrobotic X Feed.

(UPDATE AS OF JAN13, 2024 FROM ASTROBOTIC:  "Our latest assessment now shows the spacecraft is on a path towards Earth...")

The Peregrine Robotic Lander carries experiments, scientific instruments, two prototype satellites for Amazon's Kuiper boradband constellation, and cremated human remains.

On a mission called Luna Tranquility, the cremated remains (lunar memorials) prepared in small metal capsules with only a few grams of remains each were to be deposited into the Lacus Mortis region of the moon. 

Interestingly, the Vulcan rocket has another mission called Enterprise Flight, a deep space flight carring more cremains. These remains and DNA samples are from over 200 people including former presidents George Washington, Dwight D Eisenhower, John F Kennedy as well as remains from the creator and several cast members of the original Star Trek TV series. 

View configurations of the ULA VULCAN ROCKET.

The image below is a composite of my initial test shot from earlier in the evening when the Orion constellation was low in the sky, paired with the streak shot of the Vulcan launch itself. What an absolute beautiful launch to see in person. Pure magic!  Below that is a closer view of the Vulcan rocket as it soars toward space.

Click the images to see larger versions in the gallery (more rocket photos there!)

VulcanVulcan Vulcan FireVulcan Fire

 


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