A stunning timelapse of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch flying over Arizona


Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/12/27/a-stunning-timelapse-of-the-sp.html


What? Last time I saw a rocket go sideways, it was the Challenger.


A low Earth orbit path, I think.


At least one car accident likely caused by distraction of the launch – caught on dashcam.


Not to be snarky, but this launch was VISIBLE from Arizona but not OVER Arizona. Polar orbit launches from Vandenberg go South over open water. This spectacular display was visible because of the altitude of the vehicle at this time and the perfect lighting from the timing of the launch. And in response to Boundegar, MOST of the launch is ‘horizontal’ as you call it. The payload ends up at about 100-200 miles altitude but needs to be traveling 17,000 mph ‘horizontally’ around the Earth. Only a small amount of the total thrust is directed ‘up’



Man, my Facebook-people has a field day with this “UFO.”


This was so wild to see live. We just happened to walk out the door to go somewhere when it was launched.
What a great video.


What’s casuing that weird shockwave-like effect? It’s clearly visible in the dashcam vid as well. If it is indeed a shockwave. I presume the bit falling away from it is the first stage separation? Looks stunning though, no wonder someone got rear-ended.


What? Last time I saw a rocket go sideways, it was the Challenger.

Kerbal Space Program players know.

  1. Yes, it’s stage separation. This was a fully expendable launch, imagine the number of “UFO sightings” if the flight plan included boostback for the first stage.

  2. As an educated guess, it’s because of the way the high upper atmosphere is weird. It’s close to a vacuum, but what air there is, can have very high speed winds. Near vacuum means the rocket exhaust can expand a lot more and a lot faster before friction slows it down than we are used to seeing on jet contrails. High winds mean the exhaust trail can bloom and billow in interesting ways. Add the way the rocket is flying through layers and zones of different wind directions and speeds, and you get neat effects as seen in the video.

eta: on rewatching the video, I think the billowy, rough exhaust at the start might be at or near max-Q, when the rocket is still going through relatively thick atmosphere with a lot of turbulence. Then things smooth out once you get into the thinner upper atmosphere.


Even though they didn’t recover the first stage (it was a twice-used copy of a now-obsolete older model) , they still flew the booster through a boostback/entry/landing sequence (For Science!) to a downrange “soft landing” in the ocean.

The “eye” of the “whale” shape is the F9 first stage, emitting puffs of cold nitrogen gas to maneuver after the boostback burn. (The thrusters fire in short pulses so they don’t ice up.)

This video, unlike many others, also captures the booster’s re-entry burn as it descends below the ‘whale.’

If you look rillllly close, you can see glints off of both fairing halves, in between the whale’s ‘nose’ and ‘eye’, and in some vids you can see the upper fairing half puffing a maneuvering thruster too. (SpaceX is attempting to recover the fairing, as well.)

I watched it live from LA, knowing exactly what I was looking at, and I was just astonished by the all visible detail in the separation and post-sep maneuvers. Easily the most amazing launch I’ve ever seen - and I’ve seen more than a couple of sunset launches from V’berg.


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