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Space Science

Mid-Atlantic Commercial Spaceport Makes First Launch 67

Posted by kdawson
from the scaring-the-ponies dept.
PeeAitchPee writes "East Coast residents of the US were treated to the first launch from the mid-Atlantic region's commercial spaceport. The 69-foot Minotaur I rocket soared from the launch pad at 7 a.m. ET, after teams spent the week resolving a glitch in software for one of the satellites that had scrubbed a liftoff on Monday. I witnessed the launch while driving to BWI airport this morning and it was beautiful! It left a zig-zag contrail in the southern sky and the separation / ignition of one of the upper stages was clearly visible." The spaceport, a commercial collaboration of Virginia and Maryland, is on the Delmarva peninsula south of the Maryland line, just west of Chincoteague Island.
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Mid-Atlantic Commercial Spaceport Makes First Launch

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  • TSA (Score:3, Funny)

    by caffeinemessiah (918089) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @02:49PM (#17270320) Journal
    At this early juncture in commercial space travel, let's all pray that TSA doesn't get their paws on spaceport security.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Guppy06 (410832)
      How much longer until the TSA implements the "Fifth Element" solution and forcibly sedates everybody on the plane?
      • by Spikeles (972972)
        You know, if you think about it, it's not such a bad idea. No screaming kids, you don't have to be bored for 2hrs doing nothing but reading magazines, you don't have to worry about crashing, or if you are afraid of heights.. it's a good solution actually.
        • The only downside is that not everyone will necessarily wake up at the end of the flight. But most of those people will be the aged, infirm, or very young, so as long as we don't care about those groups we're good to go!
          • by Spikeles (972972)
            Yeah, i had thought about those after i posted. Would be good to do to normal people as well to prevent terrorists taking over planes/spaceplanes. But those groups are less likely to be terrorists no?
        • by Vexar (664860)
          Like the terrorists won't figure out how to create an antidote for the sedation, and preload their systems with it? Come on.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I think a better thing to say would be "I hope nobody decides to hijack a rocket, so TSA has a reason to get involved."
  • by ScentCone (795499) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @03:01PM (#17270446)
    One of the neighbor kids asked what was in the sky this morning, and I told him it was the government testing something they might need if Santa flies in too close to the DC-area controlled airspace. It's great to see those little minds so caught up in the emotion of learning something new.
    • Mmm (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ElMiguel (117685)

      Haha. You totally pwned that kid. That'll teach him to trust you when he wants to learn something. </sarcasm>

      I'm sorry, but I've never understood the joy some people find in deceiving children who come to them with honest questions. Those kids want to learn the truth and you tell them a lie for your own amusement while pretending to help them.

      It's just like religion.

      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I just like hearing minds shatter. The younger ones do so at a higher, more pleasing pitch.
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I'm sorry, but I've never understood the joy some people find in deceiving children who come to them with honest questions. Those kids want to learn the truth and you tell them a lie for your own amusement while pretending to help them.

        It's just like religion.

        It's the same sense of "joy" that leads to child molestation/rape, violations of the people's trust by coaches, pastors, cub/boy/girl scout leaders, teachers, businesses, governments ... and folks that would mod it "5, Funny". From the same folks that brought the planet "home invasion burglaries/killings" for the sake of "discovering new worlds ... (just a few "savages" running around not exploiting anything)"; snatching artifacts of those folks, sticking them in a museum and claiming that the reason the

      • by ScentCone (795499)
        I'm sorry, but I've never understood the joy some people find in deceiving children who come to them with honest questions. Those kids want to learn the truth and you tell them a lie for your own amusement while pretending to help them.

        You're not a very subtle one, are you. The only "children" at whom my humor was aimed were the ones here on slashdot that can't spot a bit of satire when they see it. Lighten up a little bit. Of course I didn't say that to a kid - I said it to this audience to paint a rath
    • what? by your tone of irony you're implying my faith in NORAD Santa [noradsanta.org] has been misplaced all these years??!!
      • by ScentCone (795499)
        what? by your tone of irony you're implying my faith in NORAD Santa has been misplaced all these years??!!

        No! No no no. It seems I'm mistaken, and that is every bit completely true.
  • by hey! (33014) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @03:01PM (#17270448) Homepage Journal
    Something's got be funny about someone who names a 69 ft phallic object after the fruit of the most celebrated instance of bestiality in antiquity...
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Something's got be funny about someone who names a 69 ft phallic object after the fruit of the most celebrated instance of bestiality in antiquity...

      That might be just a wee bit of a stretch for the funny.

      • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

        by CptNerd (455084)
        Something's got be funny about someone who names a 69 ft phallic object after the fruit of the most celebrated instance of bestiality in antiquity...

        That might be just a wee bit of a stretch for the funny.

        I got email just today about a revolutionary new product that could help that...

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "Something's got be funny about someone who names a 69 ft phallic object"

      "69"..."phallic"...*snicker*
  • And how many Frequent Flier miles will I need for my first sub orbital trip? Man, these are exciting times.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I had pictured this as being in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pnewhook (788591)
      And the US Midwest is roughly in the center of the US and much of it is in the Eastern time zone. Americans have absolutely no sense of direction.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by DavidLJ (190528) *
        Agreed. I saw the head and looked in on the assumption that somebody had got around to building a floating rocket base, to get away from populations and to get closer to the Equator. Wer-ronggg!

        • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          This is what you're looking for: Sea-Launch [boeing.com]
      • Apparently, you have no sense of US History. I won't explain any further than that, because the reason for both Mid-Atlantic and Midwest should be obvious from a rudimentary knowledge of history and language. Yet another blatant Flamebait comment that got rated as Insightful.
        • by pnewhook (788591)

          Ok, so the first American settlers had no clue where they were either...

          It was a joke, get over it...

    • by zzatz (965857)
      Since some seem to have trouble parsing this:

      Mid-(Atlantic Coast)

      NOT (Mid-Atlantic) Coast, as there isn't any coast in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

      Naming a region of land using the name of the adjoining body of water is quite common. More clues: Canal Street isn't actually IN the canal, the Channel Ports actually only touch the English Channel. It also works the other way: the South China Sea isn't in southern China. Not to mention that the Mediterranean Sea is not actually in the middle of the Ea
      • Since some seem to have trouble parsing this:

        Mid-(Atlantic Coast)

        NOT (Mid-Atlantic) Coast, as there isn't any coast in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

        Sorry, but I read the article carefully and also searched in my browser and failed to find the word "coast" in it. Perhaps there is a convention to call a certain part of the US coast the "Mid-Atlantic", but that's certainly not well known in the rest of the world.

        For anyone who isn't a "Merkin" and is interested in space exploration, the expression "Mid-At

  • by Principal Skinner (56702) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @03:16PM (#17270592) Homepage
    Maryland and Virginia cooperating on something! What's that squealing noise going past my 5th-story window?
  • Well, does anyone? Their site is down for the count . . .
  • With so many spaceports popping up everywhere I kinda wonder how the industry will be commoditized.
  • by From A Far Away Land (930780) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @04:03PM (#17270922) Homepage Journal
    I asked the designers of the Da Vinci Project in Canada when they'd start making launches into space, and the last I heard of the Project was months ago, after a gathering in the south western US for a competition. I guess I'll have to see when they are going to get a launch date in place for the pad that was prepared at Kindersley, SK Canada a couple years ago.

    It would be nice to have a "northerly" launch point, even though it's more common to have pads closer to the equator.
  • by mhollis (727905)

    The article states that the rocket used was cobbled together from unused military rockets. It also mentions that the area is depressed and is looking to bootstrap itself into economic health through this venture.

    I see a fleecing of the taxpayer going on here, as the rocket used came from the military (all ready paid for by the taxpayer -- though its refurbishment for use with a satellite might not have been. I see the land being acquired at taxpayer expense and I see the first launch being paid for by the

    • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @04:56PM (#17271278)
      No, this looks like a fiscal boondoggle to me. And with the recent change in the membership of the US House of Repesentatives and Senate, one wonders whether or not anything else will ever launch from there.

      This is not a new construction. This is land (and launch pads) leased from the Wallops Island [nasa.gov] facility. NASA has been launching stuff from there for decades.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mhollis (727905)

        This is land (and launch pads) leased from the Wallops Island [nasa.gov] facility. NASA has been launching stuff from there for decades.

        You are right, though it's my understanding that the land was actually purchased, along with rights-of-way enabling vehicular traffic to the now privatized (at taxpayer expense) launch area. But even if it is leased, it's a privatization paid for by the citizens of the area in order to boost employment, which is a kind of a boondoggle. This is another means of getting money from ta

        • And what's wrong with having a private corp launch satellites? The Air Force was merely the first customer. It will not be the only customer.

          Looks like the taxpayers just got boondoggled out of roughly double the amount of money it would have taken...

          I don't suppose you have any backup for that claim, do you?
          • It's not a "private corporation" when almost all of the cost to do it was funded by taxpayers. If google or microsoft had bought the land, launch site, hired all the people, and built the rocket, then we'd be okay with that. Well, maybe not microsoft, but you get the idea.
    • by jayteedee (211241) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @05:33PM (#17271530)
      So many problems. Lets see, where to start? Lets start with the word "cobbled" shall we. You NEVER just cobble together some rocket motors. When OSC (or others) use military rockets, there is an extensive retrofit to each motor: V-band separation instead of linear shape charges, replace liquid injection systems with thrust vector controllers, entirely new avionics, new safe and arm devices, new wiring, new raceway, batteries, etc. Plus, as the acticle CLEARLY stated, it was 2 military motors (Minuteman, probably SR-70 and M-55) and two motors from the Pegasus vehicle. Plus most of the re-used military rockets are re-poures with the cheapest ones I've seen being about $6 million (SR-19 motors). The Air Force didn't re-pay for these motors, but you can bet a civilian launch of the same vehicle would have to figure in the extra cost of the used military motors.

      So what if it's a economically challened area, the STATE (and then states) funded the launch pad, NOT the feds. They are lifting themselves up for their own area, not looking for federal handouts. And ranges DON'T hire rocket scientists at all (unless the scientist is looking for a stiff pay cut). These are typical building maintenance and electronic types. Even if they could launch from their own port, it presents two problems. ALL federally controlled space ports are overpriced since their government jobs, and they want/need to have launch sites in different areas to allow different orbital insertion planes. The bottom line is the military likes having places like this or Spaceport Alaska to give them more options and lower overhead.

      You should also point to this launch site, since it's a heck of a lot closer:
      http://www.spacetoday.org/Rockets/Spaceports/Launc hSites.html#WallopsIsland [spacetoday.org]

      And no, most military launches aren't any more secure than civilian launches. EVERYBODY is concerned when there is a multi-million dollar highly-explosive vehicle sitting on the launchpad. Only some launches are under super tight security (and contained unlabelled/mis-labelled cargo).
      • by mhollis (727905)

        OK, I've been seriously modded down for my post (parent). I tend to not be modded down.

        You prove my point here. The military rockets are developed and paid for by the military. Then they're retrofitted (at the public's expense, which is my point) for "non-military" use. Then they're used for a military test (actually two). Your $6 Million figure is probably pretty realistic in terms of the civilian cost -- the total cost of the program was stated in the article.

        What I'm getting at is this money is all tax

    • Is anyone else curious why the "space industry" can't seem to bootstrap itself? There have been hundreds of research teams and thousands of launches of variuos kinds over the last 40-odd years and yet we still spend weeks on the launch pad trying to clear up a software glitch!

      It seems to me that they need to rethink the model and redesign the way we do space launches. Before BitTorrent downloads could be fast if you had the right connection. They would be unrealiable if they were too long however. Afte

  • I saw it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rrkaiser (676130) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @04:42PM (#17271188)
    I made an early morning trip to a local laudromat in Bowie, Maryland. I normally get there a little before 7:00 A.M. EST. Sunrise happens now around 7:10 A.M. It's a pleasure to see the sky and clouds change color and appearance as sunrise nears.

    As I watched today, I said, "What's that?". To the east a thin bright white contrail grew longer and longer. What's that? I had no idea. Something "shiny" was drawing a line on the sky. The contrail quickly went from a line to jaggy. My guess - Something must be traveling vertical, going through different wind layers.

    Acceleration was easily visible - not at all like a cruising plane. It changed course from what may have been nearly vertical to something much closer to horizontal. At times, a long "wake" was visible - a bright line vee from the base of the "shiny thing".

    I had no idea what I was looking at. Now I do.
    Shiny? The rocket exhaust flame? The distance from Bowie to Wallops is on the order of 100 miles, I can't have been seeing the rocket itself.

    It might be decade or so since that last time I've seen a "not looking for it" launch display from the Wallops area.

  • It left a zig-zag contrail in the southern sky and the separation / ignition of one of the upper stages was clearly visible.

    Because going straight up is just too easy.

    Also aboard the rocket is NASA's GeneSat-1 satellite, which carries a harmless strain of E. coli bacteria as part of an experiment to study the long-term effects of space on living organisms.

    Until they get hit from all the radiation from the sun spots this week. Let me be the first to welcome our new E. coli overlords.

    The delay add

    • My son and I saw the trail as we were packing his hockey gear (south of Dulles Airport, due west of DC proper)... I had no idea that it was from a rocket at the time (makes perfect sense now). Cool to be returning to the good ol' days of small-scale spaceflight, especially outside my front window.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Can be found at: http://www.wff.nasa.gov/tacsat2/ [nasa.gov]
  • by jafac (1449) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @05:49PM (#17271634) Homepage
    The minotaur IIRC, is basically a repurposed minuteman III.

    The nice thing about solid fuel rockets (as opposed to liquid-fuel), is that they leave a nice, visible trail as they ascend, which often persists for 30 minutes or more. Here on the W/C, we get to see minuteman missile tests out of Vandenberg 2-3 times a year. (mostly in the middle of the night, though).

    When you see something like an Atlas or Delta go up, there isn't much of a trail at all, so if you aren't watching closely, you can miss it.

    Of course, there are some bad things about solid-fuel rockets; the exhaust is often pretty nasty stuff, corrosive, and toxic. Plus, you can't throttle them back or shut them off if something goes wrong. On the other hand, they're so simple, mechanically, you're not likely to need to throttle them back.

    But the best thing about solids, is that they usually supplement the larger Atlas and Delta vehicles, and you get to hear rocket scientists talk about "strap-ons".
  • Mid Atlantic? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by flyingfsck (986395)
    Ye gads, that is so far from the mid-Atlantic, it isn't even funny.
  • by fishbulb- (81857)
    I just happened to be outside and looking east and saw it launch... And I was about 300 miles away in Irwin, PA.
    http://www.thepittsburghchannel.com/news/10552546/ detail.html [thepittsburghchannel.com]
  • "Mid-Atlantic Commercial Spaceport...you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious."

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